CLEVELAND — The Red Sox entered their rubber match with the Guardians already sporting the look of the defeated.
Manager Alex Cora benched Alex Verdugo for his lack of hustle in Wednesday’s loss.
Thus, the predictable occurred once the Sox hit the field, dropping the series finale, 10-3. Their self-inflicted distractions seized an important matchup before it even started.
“We have to cancel the noise and start playing good baseball,” Cora said. “That’s the most important thing. We haven’t done that in a while and it’s frustrating. It’s not the type of baseball we wanted to play. But here we are.”
José Ramírez, whose bat had been in hibernation most of the season, pounded three homers — two off Dermody, who was designated for assignment following the contest.
“I think my biggest mistake was that I couldn’t get ahead,” Dermody said of his struggles against Ramírez. “I was 3-0 in the second at-bat, and then the first at-bat I was full count and gave him a fastball that got too much plate. In the second at-bat it was a fastball up in the zone, so he got to it and killed me.”
The first came in the first when Ramírez launched a two-out solo shot off Dermody to left field. The second, a two-run shot to center, perhaps should not have occurred; on the previous play with one out, Christian Arroyo gloved a potential double play ball, but his feed to Kiké Hernández straddling second was high, making it impossible for Hernández to turn two with Steven Kwan hustling down the line.
The Sox hung in, scoring on a Jarren Duran RBI single in the fifth and a Triston Casas solo shot in the sixth off Cleveland starter Aaron Civale.
But Ramirez and the Guardians turned the 37-year-old Corey Kluber, who looked as if father time had officially called his number, into mush. Ramírez tagged Kluber for a solo shot, sparking a five-run inning for the Guardians.
Kluber, who was the Sox’ Opening Day starter, was shellacked for 11 hits and seven runs (all earned) in 3 ⅓ innings, including a string of eight consecutive hits at one point. The first out of the inning only came because right fielder Rob Refsnyder bailed out Kluber, throwing out Will Brennan who tried to stretch his single into a double. Kluber would later yield a solo shot to Brennan in the eighth that ricocheted off the foul pole in right.
“It’s very tough [to watch] not only with Corey, but with anybody that we have out there,” Cora said. “But he gave us enough. We were able to kind of reset our bullpen and let’s be ready for tomorrow.”
The Sox (31-32) fell under .500 for the first time since April 28.
Their bats have been silenced. Rafael Devers, still searching. Their defense, still an issue. Their roster construction, still flawed. Their injuries, still present. Their pitching, still what-ifs over certainty.
Now, they travel to New York for their first series against the Yankees. Verdugo, as he did pregame, declined to comment postgame. Kluber, still dressed in a Sox undershirt and his baseball pants, declined to talk to the media, too, after his poor performance that doomed any promise of a Sox series win.
Casas, however, did speak.
“It’s been tough,” said Casas, who had two of the Sox’ eight hits. “We try to preach a winning culture. We try to stay positive all the time. But when things aren’t going our way, it’s definitely challenging.”