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Red Sox mark one-third mark of season with frustrating loss to lowly Reds

Spencer Steer's seventh-inning home run proved to be the difference at Fenway Park on Wednesday night.Maddie Meyer/Getty

The Red Sox insist they are a team that can win now.

A club that, despite some injuries, can still compete, and thrive, in their effort to make a playoff push.

But one-third of the way through the season, the Sox have yet to show that consistently.

They face-planted once again to the lowly Reds on Wednesday night, losing the series following their 5-4 loss to a club that has missed eight of the last nine postseasons.

“It’s been up and down,” manager Alex Cora said. “We have to come here Thursday and find a way to win. Find a way to win. It wasn’t a great game today.”


The value of the quality at-bat ultimately played out in the Reds’ favor.

James Paxton pounded the strike zone with four-seam fastballs for five frames, drawing 12 called strikes after registering zero in his previous start against the Angels. Paxton collected 22 swings and misses Wednesday, tied for the fifth-most most in any game in his career.

Paxton tossed five innings of four-hit, one-run ball.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

But as electric as Paxton’s stuff was, assembling eight strikeouts and allowing just a run, it took him 100 pitches to get through five innings.

The command was present, the opposite of Brayan Bello’s showing Tuesday, when the righthander labored through four innings in a Sox loss. Paxton worked his cutter and his changeup off his fastball, placing it underneath the hands of righties on the inner part of the plate.

Yet the Reds hitters wouldn’t give in, fouling off 23 pitches against the lefthander. And despite a scoreless first, the Reds squeezed 24 pitches out of Paxton in that inning.

“They grind out at-bats really well,” said Paxton. “They weren’t easy outs. Testament to them in just taking good at-bats against me.”

For a second night in a row, Cora was obligated to go to his bullpen early, and it gave the Reds even more life.


The Sox carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth behind solo homers by Masataka Yoshida and Enmanuel Valdez wrapped around Rafael Devers’s RBI double against Reds starter Luke Weaver.

Kutter Crawford took over for the sixth but wasn’t sharp, gifting the Reds with two free passes. Crawford sat down the next two batters on consecutive fly outs, but Nick Senzel’s single brought in a run and ended Crawford’s night.

Josh Winckowski struck out Jose Barrero to end the threat, but ran into trouble in the seventh after Devers’s errant throw skipped by Justin Turner at first. Consecutive singles loaded the bases and a ground-out double play tied the contest, 3-3. The Reds took their first lead of the night after Spencer Steer directed a go-ahead two-run shot to left-center for a 5-3 lead.

Just before the game, Cora was direct in saying his team hasn’t been a good defensive team. The error by Devers was yet another reminder of the team’s fatal flaw.

“It’s tough,” said Cora. “It’s a routine play that we have to make. I always say if you give the opposition more than 27 outs, most of the time they’re gonna score. They’re gonna make you pay.”

The Sox have lost three in a row, finishing May with a 13-13 mark, to bring their record to 28-27. The Blue Jays (29-27) had a horrific month, going 11-17 in May, but the Sox are still a half game behind them in the American League East.


“Personally, I know I’m putting too much pressure on myself,” said Jarren Duran, who followed Yoshida’s double in the eighth with one of his own to pull his Sox within a run. “Especially when the game isn’t going our way, you want to do more than you need to do. I don’t know, maybe some other guys are putting too much pressure on themselves.”

The Sox, who went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position, missed an opportunity to score with two outs in the seventh when Turner grounded out to Matt McClain with the bases loaded.

In the ninth, also with two outs, Devers skied what initially looked like a game-tying homer to center. Senzel, however, retreated comfortably and made the catch on the warning track.

The Sox will try to avoid the sweep to the Reds Thursday.

Imagine that.

Julian McWilliams can be reached at Follow him @byJulianMack.