NEW YORK — They lost. They met. They lost again.
And the season that began with the dream of a World Series repeat might not even reach October.
The Yankees erased a pair of early Red Sox leads thanks to two Gleyber Torres homers, scored twice in the seventh against Matt Barnes, then escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth to complete a doubleheader sweep, winning the nightcap, 6-4.
Combined with their 9-2 loss in the day’s first game, the Red Sox (59-54) fell 13½ games behind the Yankees with 49 to play. More pressing, Tampa Bay (64-48) won on Saturday, putting the Rays 5½ games up in the race for the AL’s second wild card. (Oakland, which played later Saturday, is 4½ ahead of the Sox.)
“It’s one of those stretches,” said manager Alex Cora, whose team is 0-6 this week against its main division foes. “We knew it would be a tough stretch in terms of facing the Rays and the Yankees. But we know we can hit. It’s a matter of slowing down the game and get back to swinging at pitches in the middle of the zone and not the edges.”
Rafael Devers gave the Sox an early lead with a two-run homer in the third, but New York answered with three in their half against Brian Johnson, a Torres solo homer followed by two singles, then a Cameron Maybin two-run double down the left field line.
Mookie Betts singled in two runs to grab the lead back in the fourth, but that was it for the offense, and the 4–5 innings the club hoped to get from the returning Johnson ended up only three.
“He left the fastball over the plate to Torres,” Cora said on Johnson, who threw 70 pitches in his first action since June 22. “He used his breaking ball early in the game and they did a good job. We knew his pitch count wouldn’t be way up there, but kind of in that third inning, didn’t seem like we would be able to navigate through four innings.”
Torres hit his second homer in the fifth off Josh Taylor to tie it, and in the seventh, Barnes loaded the bases with none out on a double and two walks, then coughed up the lead when Mike Tauchman’s single brought in two runs.
The opening loss of the day-night doubleheader ended at 3:48 p.m. The clubhouse is normally open to the media 10 minutes after the final out is recorded.
But this time, it didn’t open until 4:12. The players had some things to say among themselves in an impromptu meeting.
There had been talk of a meeting since Cora brought it up after the Sox were swept by the Rays on Thursday. Cora told reporters that he planned on having a team meeting — something he’s not known for — ahead of the series against the Yankees. He oddly backtracked on Friday afternoon, adding that he didn’t conduct a meeting and if he had, the media would be the last to know.
Yet this much is known: Boston’s seven-game skid is its longest since 2015. The thought of a postseason appearance is bleak. A meeting on their lackluster play was no longer an idea, it was a necessity.
“It was to get us back on track,” Betts said afterward. “It was a group decision.”
“When things come up, you have to address it,” Sale said. “We care about each other and obviously we’re not playing the way we want. We respect each other and we love each other. When something comes up and someone has something to say, we have enough respect and love for each other to get together as a group to go over some things.”
With the exception of a handful of players, many of the Sox weren’t present when the clubhouse was finally opened. There was Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Sandy Leon, Chris Sale, and a couple of others, but for the most part players occupied areas the media couldn’t access.
If there is a rock bottom for the Sox, this is it. They have searched for the switch, that moment when everything clicks and they are a team that reaches its capabilities. They haven’t found it. When the Sox look down at the time left in the season and the losses that have piled up, the club understands it’s time to sort this all out.
“It’s not good right now,” Cora said. “We’re not playing good baseball. It seems like it has flip-flopped from last year. Where [the Yankees] are at right now and where we’re at right now.”
There’s a confidence that the Red Sox still say they carry. But make no mistake, they are watching the clock with each loss, both the competitive and inexcusable ones.
“We have to win,” said Bradley, who with Andrew Benintendi provided the only offense for the Sox in the opener with solo shots off Yankees starter Domingo German. “We have two months left. We have a really good squad. We have two months to figure it all out.”
“We have to find a way,” said Sale. “We have to grind through it. That’s where we’re at. We have to start from scratch here. We have two months to get our foot in the door.”
The Red Sox have said for months that they need their talent to produce. That talent from within, on paper, is better than most. But the struggles have continued for the pitching staff, and, again, Sale was a part of that.
“It’s tough for everybody,” Cora said of Sale’s struggles. “Every five days we count on him and he takes pride in that. Right now it’s not going good.”
“We’re in the middle of a rut,” Betts said. “We have to figure out a way to get out of it.”