First Eduardo Nunez. Now Ryan Brasier.
Little by little, the 2018 Red Sox championship wagon discards spare parts, lurching toward August with a firm hold on the seventh seed in a league that has only 10 teams actually trying to win games.
The moribund Blue Jays pummeled the Red Sox, 10-4, Tuesday at Fenway in a tidy 3 hours and 45 interminable minutes. It was pathetic and embarrassing. Ten-four. Over and out. The Sox sit 10 games behind the Yankees, 11 in the loss column.
So there. The defending world champion Red Sox, owners of the highest payroll in baseball, continue to be a study in underachievement, messing with a patient fan base (these folks applauded Chris Sale when he was pulled in the fifth Saturday!) that appears willing to tolerate almost anything in the interest of hope.
Fans stick with the Sox even when they play five-hour games and habitually spit the bit against good competition (Boston is 19-28 against teams with winning records). National commentators fall over themselves pumping the tires of the Red Sox every time the Olde Towne team is featured on network TV.
Contrary to all the evidence, Boston baseball boss Dave Dombrowski says he has addressed the squad’s obvious pitching problems, like Kevin Bacon in “Animal House” insisting “All is well.’’ We’re not supposed to notice that Nate Eovaldi — who was announced as the solution to the closer problem July 2 — is still at least a week away.
Dombrowski should have worked for Saul Goodman’s law firm.
As in, “S’all good, man.’’
Fortunately, the Red Sox get to play the Jays and Baltimore Orioles 38 times every year. It is indeed a blessing. When you have a $240 million payroll, no matter how hard you try, it’s virtually impossible to play yourself out of wild-card consideration. The Jays and O’s will always be there to fall down in front of you.
When Dombrowski pried Andrew Cashner from the cunning Orioles (28-66) last Saturday, Boston’s team builder was celebrated as the most astute baseball savant since Branch Rickey. Cashner got the ball Tuesday night against the wretched Jays and it was a big moment. Not since Daisuke Matsuzaka arrived from Japan has there been this much excitement for a Fenway mound debut.
I had to double-check my press notes when I noticed that Cashner’s career record coming into this season was 46-79.
So what did we get? Another pedestrian stink bomb.
Bill Parcells once said “You are what your record says you are” and Cashner delivered on that low expectation. He allowed more traffic than the Southeast Expressway on a Friday afternoon, giving up six runs (five earned) on eight hits (two homers), two walks, a hit batsman, and a wild pitch over five-innings plus. Oh, and another Jay reached base on a third strike that went to the backstop. Cashner was the textbook definition of a No. 5 starter on a bad team.
Catcher Christian Vazquez delivered the best remark, noting, “He has a nice beard.’’
Maybe Cashner needs Sandy Leon to be his personal catcher. Maybe that would do the trick.
It’s not easy to lose to the Blue Jays (now 36-60), but Cashner and the Red Sox pulled it off, digging a 4-1 hole in the first four innings. After the Sox rallied to tie the game in the fifth, Cashner surrendered a monster home run to Justin Smoak on the first pitch of the sixth inning. When Freddy Galvis followed with a single to left, Cashner was pulled in favor of Josh Taylor. Cashner got the Sale applause from the Sweet Caroline crowd. So good. So good. So good.
Summary: Better than Hector Velazquez. A low bar indeed.
“I didn’t think I was very sharp,’’ acknowledged Cashner. “I didn’t command my velocity very well, especially after we tied the game. I felt more rusty than anything else. I felt like they did make an adjustment on me.’’
“He’s been giving his team a chance to win,’’ Sox manager Alex Cora said of Cashner before the game.
True statement. Cashner was an amazing 9-3 with the ridiculous Orioles this year.
But he was not sharp Tuesday. The Jays put two runners on base in the first, three in the second, and three more in the third. The immortal Teoscar Hernandez (.200) hit a three-run homer in the second. Smoak (.216) drilled an RBI single in the third. Cashner threw 92 pitches in his sour start. The Jays tacked on four runs against Dombrowski’s Triple A bullpen in a jailbreak ninth.
So how do you like your team, Sox fans?
“I’ve been saying all year that we’ve got to get better,’’ Cora said before the game. “We’d better get better now.’’
After the game, the manager amended his remark to, “It has to start tomorrow.’’
“We’ll see flashes of the team,’’ said Cora. “And then it doesn’t happen for a few days. Overall, it’s been a weird season. You look at our numbers you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, great.’ I think we’re first in runs scored and on-base percentage and all this stuff and it’s like there’s more . . . we’ve got to be better in other aspects of the game.’’
Like the rotation. And the bullpen.
Dombrowski’s intransigence on the state of Red Sox pitching has become deadly to this team. There are simply not enough major league arms.
Sale, the gun-slinging ace lefty who almost never wins a game, gets the ball Thursday afternoon at 1:05 against the Jays. On the books for $30 million for each of the next five years, the 3-9 Sale will be trying to win his first Fenway start since July 11, 2018. He can’t possibly lose to these bums again, right?
It’s like what Andy said to Red in “The Shawshank Redemption.’’
Time for the 2019 Red Sox to get busy living or get busy dying.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.