ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jackie Bradley Jr., hands on hips, turned around and looked at the scoreboard when Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie jogged out to the mound in the sixth inning.
Xander Bogaerts picked up a handful of dirt at shortstop and flung it down. Out in left field, Brock Holt leaned forward at the waist and stared at the artificial turf.
No words were said but the body language was clear: Get this game, series, and lost weekend over with. Start up the plane and go home.
The Red Sox did nothing well again Sunday afternoon in a 9-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays. They pitched poorly, managed only three hits, ran into another out on the bases, and committed an error that led to an unearned run.
Tampa Bay earned a three-game sweep but the Sox didn’t do much to get in the way of it, either. They were outscored, 24-5, in the series and scored two runs in the final 22 innings.
“Just a bad weekend, that’s it,” manager Alex Cora said. “They’re playing great baseball; they play great here. They’ve done this to some good teams.”
All true. The Rays have won eight straight and have the best home record in the majors since mid-June.
But this is more than one bad weekend. The Sox have lost six of eight overall and have a 5.22 earned run average in those games. They also have failed to hit a home run in seven of those games.
The team with the best record in baseball is playing like one with the worst.
“I think it’s something that every team goes through and this is our time now,” Bogaerts said.
The Sox now lead the Yankees by six games in the American League East following New York’s completion of its four-game sweep in Baltimore on Sunday night. With 30 games remaining for the Red Sox, nothing can be assumed.
None of the players expressed concern. But the Yankees haven’t been this close in three weeks. The Rays aren’t close to a playoff spot but they certainly have influenced the race.
Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi (5-6) lasted only four innings against his former team, giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits.
“I felt like I was out there battling the whole game,” he said.
The righthander has pitched 17 innings in his last four starts and allowed 14 earned runs on 35 hits.
Matt Duffy had three hits, two RBIs, and scored two runs for the Rays. Tampa Bay was 6 of 13 with runners in scoring position.
Blake Snell (16-5) improved his Cy Young Award candidacy by allowing one run on two hits over six innings and striking out eight.
The lefthander faced the Sox four times this season and allowed three runs over 25 innings and struck out 27. The Sox hit .157 against him.
Down 6-0, the Sox scored in the sixth inning. Sandy Leon walked, went to third on Bradley’s double, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.
But that was the extent of the offense. The Sox advanced only four runners beyond first base and one was the result of defensive indifference in the ninth inning.
Cora stayed true to his pre-series plans to give Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez a day off so they get an extended break with the scheduled day off on Monday.
“Nope,” the manager said when asked if he considered changing that. “I wasn’t tempted after we were no-hit in April. I’m not going to tempted after I lost a series.
“They need their rest. We’re going to take advantage of [Monday] and they’ll play throughout the week.”
Cora’s lineup philosophy has clearly worked over the course of the season as the Sox lead the majors in runs, OPS, and most other relevant statistics.
But they were little challenge to the Rays with two prominent players on the bench. Snell and two relievers retired 11 of the final 12 Sox and most of the at-bats were quick ones.
“It’s tough, you know?” Cora said. “You come here playing good baseball and that happens. It’s normal. It’s not that they’re putting their heads down; but those guys on the mound, they can frustrate anybody.
“You could see at the end that we were a little bit frustrated.”
Bogaerts felt the same way.
“We’re going home. These games are over,” he said. “I don’t think we’re coming back here this year. I don’t think we want to, either.”
Come Tuesday, when the Sox will report back to Fenway Park, Cora is not planning any big changes.
“I’ll be the same,” he said. “You start looking at a few things but you keep paying attention to details. Even when we win, I do that. I saw a few things. We have to make adjustments, just like when we win. We’ll talk about and we’ll go get them.”