If the Red Sox could somehow flip the balance between too much COVID-19 in their clubhouse and not enough offense in their lineup, they might be off to a much better start to their season.
But a 3-2, homestand-ending loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday afternoon sent the Red Sox on a 10-game, 10-day trip through Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Baltimore with an underwhelming 6-7 record on the season and 3-4 mark at Fenway Park.
Plus, they left town without vaccinated and boosted manager Alex Cora, who tested positive for COVID-19, with mild symptoms, shortly before first pitch of a game where eight of the nine hits the home team mustered were singles.
”It’s not fun when you’re not playing well,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who went 3 for 4 and had the Sox’ lone extra-base hit, a double. “Everyone wants to contribute one way or the other — if it’s pitching, if it’s defense, if it’s hitting — especially a lot of guys, hitting-wise. You win ballgames when you score runs, so hopefully we have a flight getting in a little early to Tampa, we get a good sleep, and come to the ballpark ready to go again.”
Before Bogaerts’s RBI double in the ninth sparked the sole electric moment of the afternoon for the 35,792 in attendance during a two-run rally, the Red Sox appeared hell-bent on completing the seldom-seen four-game consecutive fade of scoring 3, 2, 1, and then 0 runs.
On the series against the powerhouse Blue Jays, the Red Sox were outscored, 10-5, and outhit, 26-21. On the season, the Red Sox are batting .233.
Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman (1-1) was responsible for Thursday’s anemic effort through eight-plus innings. He held the Sox to seven singles and finished with eight strikeouts and no walks.
”He’s got good [expletive],” said Red Sox starter Tanner Houck (1-1). “That’s as simple as you can put it. Sorry to say that word on air there. But he does. You don’t get to this level without having good stuff. He was out there mixing well. Really good slider and splitter, as well.”
Houck, who will next appear out of the bullpen in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the Rays and miss the four games in Toronto because of his unvaccinated status, pitched well on Thursday, allowing two runs on three hits and one walk in five innings.
Gausman efficiently spread out his allowance of base runners, only once allowing more than one in an inning.
Houck also did not bunch his base runners, but when he did in the third inning, the Blue Jays scored twice. Bo Bichette’s single knocked in Gosuke Katoh, who led off with a walk. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s sacrifice fly gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead.
”Tanner was great,” said bench coach Will Venable, who was subbing for Cora. “He was throwing everything for strikes. I love how he used his slider to get back into counts, his split was in the zone. He was awesome. Tough spot there, he was able to minimize damage, he did a great job for us.”
The Blue Jays scored another run in the sixth inning, when the wind pushed a two-out popup away from catcher Christian Vázquez. But with the runner on second, Guerrero, running on contact, home plate was left unguarded, allowing Guerrero to score before reliever Ryan Brasier, watching the missed catch, could get near the plate.
“That’s a tough one,” said Venable. “That ball, from my perspective, looked like it was going to be foul by a lot, and it came back, the wind really took it. At that point it’s really just trying to catch the ball and it was kind of in no-man’s land. Just a tough play all around.”
Trevor Story led off the ninth-inning rally with a single off Gausman, who gave way to closer Jordan Romano. After Rafael Devers walked, Bogaerts scorched a line drive to left field, scoring Story and sending Devers to third. Alex Verdugo’s ground out to shortstop scored Devers.
With just one out, Romano dispensed of the next two batters, Bobby Dalbec and Jackie Bradley Jr., quickly on ground balls, sending the Red Sox on the road, facing early-season head winds they have not yet been able to avoid.
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.