BALTIMORE — Within a few minutes of their 6-2 victory against the fading Red Sox on Thursday night, the Baltimore Orioles changed the profile photo on their Twitter account to a headshot of Robert Andino.
It was a savage troll job by the Orioles, but the Red Sox had it coming after losing two of three against the worst team in the American League.
It was Andino’s walkoff single in Game 162 of the 2011 season that knocked the Red Sox out of playoff contention, capping a historic collapse.
Ten years later, it’s happening again. The Sox have lost five of their last six games and at 89-70 are tied with the Mariners for the second wild card with three games to play.
The Blue Jays are a game behind. In theory, the Red Sox control their fate. Win three games against the Nationals in Washington starting Friday and their season will continue in some fashion.
But on the field, the Sox look like a team ready to go home. After Kiké Hernández hit the first pitch of the game for a home run, the lineup had no more than a handful of good at-bats.
Alexander Wells, a rookie who came into the game with an 8.13 earned-run average in seven starts, pitched six innings and allowed just the one run. He retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced.
“We weren’t able to slow down the game,” manager Alex Cora said.
Xander Bogaerts was 0 for 3 with a walk and twice grounded into double plays. He is 2 for 23 without an extra-base hit or RBI in the last six games.
He appeared disconsolate afterward.
“Just not getting it done. My at-bats have been bad,” Bogaerts said. “Just very unproductive at-bats … I can’t react the way I want to.”
Cora said Nick Pivetta gave the Sox a chance to win. But after retiring the first six batters with four strikeouts, Pivetta walked rookie Tyler Nevin on four pitches to start the third inning.
Pivetta correctly called the walk uncompetitive.
It led to three runs as Pat Valaika singled and Ryan Mountcastle homered with two outs, belting a fastball to center field.
In the sixth inning, Garrett Richards allowed three runs on three hits and two wild pitches.
That the Red Sox can still extend their season without outside help is a surprise. But can they take advantage of it?
“It doesn’t look great,” Cora acknowledged. “But at the same time, like I keep telling them, we’re still a good team. We won a lot of games this year and we still have a chance to make it.”
This group of players has presented Cora with plenty of challenges on and off the field given the vaccination issue.
So it seemed worth asking him before the game if this season has been fun for him. Cora is only 45 but there have been days this month when he looks worn down.
“It’s fun; it’s stressful — all of the above. That’s why you sign to play baseball, for a chance to make it to the playoffs,” Cora said. “Let’s take care of business and avoid the drama.”
A few hours later, the drama was only building.
“We don’t make excuses. But we have to win out. We have to win,” Cora said. “We have to win this series and see where it takes us.”
Because of the pandemic, reporters haven’t been allowed in clubhouses since 2019. So what’s the mood of the team, Xander?
“We’re ready to go to Washington, to be honest,” Bogaerts said. “They outplayed us here. It’s a bad time for us to be doing that, playing worse than the Orioles, because obviously we need it more than them at this point.
“Let’s get out of here, man. Get some good sleep and come back at it [Friday].”