Welcome to rock bottom.
The Red Sox are nine games under .500 for the second time this year, but the later it gets, the worse it gets. The Sox are one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. They are one percentage point better than the Cubs, who swept them at Fenway Park. The Sox have been swept six times already, four times at Fenway.
If this keeps up, they’ll get one heck of a pick in next June’s draft.
We’ve talked about how well the Red Sox have pitched. Not so much Wednesday night as Brandon Workman was hit hard early, allowing three runs in the first inning and digging his team a hole right off the bat.
The Red Sox offense actually did its thing. It struck for 16 hits and nine runs (the Sox did leave 14 runners on base), yet Boston lost, 16-9, to the Cubs.
On most nights they would take that offensive production and thank the Baseball Gods and their lucky stars. But it’s the story of their season — one thing goes well, the other doesn’t.
Red Sox manager John Farrell continues to dwell on the positives, as he should, yet his words are becoming less believable by the day.
And so the Sox find themselves in this predicament.
This is a team that has remained together. There have been no outbursts or signs of division.
Even Jon Lester has publicly held it together and hasn’t lashed out against the team for the failed contract negotiations that have not yielded a long-term agreement for the lefty.
They get classy points for that, but it hasn’t meant a thing to the bottom line. Because the Red Sox can’t get their act together. And while they wait and wait for something to stick, nothing has.
At this point there’s no evidence that things can turn around other than the fact that on most nights they pitch well enough to win.
A trade partner hasn’t developed, so they have to keep playing their prospects. And while Mookie Betts had two hits, including a home run, Wednesday night, Xander Bogaerts continues his awful struggle and Jackie Bradley Jr. found himself on the bench along with veteran Stephen Drew, who just can’t get it together offensively after his long layoff.
A team that usually pitches this well has success, but not this one. You could see 2012, because the pitching was awful and it was reflected in the record. But when you’re fourth in the American League with a 3.73 ERA entering Wednesday night’s game, when your starters have made 49 quality starts, tied for second-most behind Oakland’s 51, you should be better than this.
When you have the second best bullpen ERA (2.93) behind Seattle and you’re 20-0 when leading after eight innings, that means your pitching is pretty solid early and late. It should translate into more wins.
So what it says is you just can’t hit.
When in your last 17 games before Wednesday night, 11 have been decided by one run, it says you can’t create separation. Your offense is impotent.
Before allowing 16 runs, the staff had held opponents to three runs or fewer at Fenway over the previous 14 games, going 10-4 with a 1.38 ERA in those contests.
Before Wednesday night’s outburst, they had failed to score two or more runs in each of their last seven home games.
The offense is incredibly inept; despite ranking third in walks (298) and sixth in times on base (1,026), it has scored the fewest runs (318) in the American League. The Sox are now 21-10 when they have 10 or more hits and 33-14 when scoring three or more runs.
They have seen 4.03 pitches per at-bat, second best in the majors, and they have reached base a major league high 451 times on two-strike counts.
It’s an amazing story, really, with an obvious solution. Hit better, especially in the clutch, and you’ll win a lot of games.
Workman’s performance was disappointing because he was chosen over Rubby De La Rosa as the young hurler who would stay in the big leagues. He had the most experience and was tried and true out of the bullpen in the playoffs and World Series last season.
Yet he couldn’t master the Cubs’ offense, which is as brutal as Boston’s.
So where do they go from here?
Does it get even worse?
Of the few thousand fans who remained in the stands by the ninth inning, many of them were whistling.
Whistling in the dark?
After Junichi Tazawa secured the final out in the ninth after a dreadful performance by Craig Breslow, the Cubs having tacked on six runs to make it 16-6, a loud mock cheer came from the crowd.
Those mock cheers are ones that no team wants to hear from its home supporters.
They got their moxie back after the Sox scored three in the ninth.
But for the most part the fans have just about had it with this team. You can see it in their response to the players. You can see it when they leave early, knowing there’s probably little chance this team could come back from a deficit.
It’s getting kind of sad.
Asked about the big picture, Farrell remained positive.
“Bigger picture is still confident in our guys,” he said. “This is a one-game situation where it got away from us. We have done a good job overall pitching and we’ve had very good defense inside our building.
“There’s a full half-season to go here. We recognize fully where we are in the standings and what our record indicates.”
What happened to that near-perfect World Series championship team of last season? Not sure anyone expected a repeat. But nobody expected a disaster. And this is turning into a disaster.
Yet there was still that silver lining.
They hit the ball well Wednesday night, and if they can pitch a little better . . .
And it’s true. Hit better, pitch well, the wins will come.
But it’s getting harder and harder to believe down here at rock bottom.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.