By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The first-ever games played on European
soil FieldTurf will be remembered by many different people for many different reasons.
The Red Sox will remember it as the weekend when their dreams of winning the AL East in 2019 were officially extinguished.
Others may remember it for becoming an international embarrassment.
Really, over the course of nine excruciating hours of baseball, the 2019 Red Sox showed exactly what the 2019 Red Sox have been all about from the moment this season began. Their starter — Rick Porcello — couldn’t even record two outs on Saturday, before the bullpen blew a valiant first-inning, six-run comeback by allowing the Yankees to score 11 straight runs. A six-run rally by Boston in the seventh at least made a game of it, but the Sox would lose 17-13 in a game that came just three minutes shy of being the longest nine-inning contest in MLB history.
On Sunday, with a chance to save some face, the Red Sox actually entered the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. Unsuspecting viewers might have foreseen a Red Sox victory forthcoming; those who’ve watched the Red Sox play baseball this year knew what would come next, though perhaps not to the exact detail.
It looked like this:
Marcus Walden pitching
Single, 2 RBIs
Matt Barnes replaces Marcus Walden
Strikeout (1 out)
Single, 2 RBIs
Josh Taylor replaces Matt Barnes
Walk (four pitches)
Ground-rule double, 2 RBIs
Sacrifice fly, RBI (2 out)
E3 (run scores)
Groundout (3 out)
That is exactly how a 4-2 lead can turn into an 11-4 deficit. And it’s exactly what it looks like when a team without a bullpen tries to hold a lead against the most potent lineup in baseball.
After all of that — after the pomp and circumstance of traveling to London, after welcoming in over 59,000 fans for each game, after the extra media availabilities, after the $500,000 private plane rides — the only thing the Red Sox have to show for their trip overseas is a pair of losses and an 11-game deficit in the AL East standings. The only way Boston could even sniff an AL East lead for the rest of this season would be if the Yankees undergo a monumental collapse, and if the Red Sox get the benefit of a series of minor miracles. Neither scenario seems likely.
“Right now,” manager Alex Cora said, “they’re a lot better than us, so we need to get better. We know we can be better. We know we have a great team. But we need to stop talking about it, and we need to do it. It’s 11.5. There’s no hiding. We know where we’re at.”
Despite witnessing his team allow 29 runs over two days, Cora stayed true to his course that his team is good enough to win the World Series. The caveats, though, were numerous.
“Yeah, we can win the World Series. We can win the World Series, we just need to play better. We need to get better in every aspect,” Cora said. “We can talk about the bullpen, but we can talk about the offense. We can talk about the defense, or base running. We have the talent to win the World Series, but we have to play better. I’ve been saying it since Day One. It better happen sooner rather than later, because it’s not that we’re running out of time, but the lead is huge. It’s a huge lead, and there’s other teams around us that are playing good baseball. They’re trending up, and we’re not doing that.”
As for those other teams, the Red Sox find themselves smack-dab in the middle of seven teams fighting for two wild-card spots. The Rays sit two games ahead of the Rangers, who currently occupy the second wild-card slot. Behind Texas, there’s Cleveland (0.5 GB), Oakland (0.5), Boston (2), Los Angeles (4.5) and Chicago (5.5) in the mix.
There’s plenty of time for the Red Sox to climb those wild-card standings and secure a postseason berth. But time is one thing; executing is another. There’s really not been much evidence of the 2019 Red Sox being able to play to their theoretical capabilities. And, though it was the latest offering, people who have watched this entire season did not need to tune in for all nine hours of baseball in London to know that.
Now, though, the entire world knows that if the Boston Red Sox are going to make an unlikely title defense this coming October, they’re going to need to play like a completely different baseball team for the second half of the season. Even then, after falling to 1-6 on the season against the Yankees, any route to the postseason will require a path through the Wild Card Game.
More than 3,000 miles each way. Eighteen innings. Nine hours. Twenty-nine runs allowed. And an 11-game deficit in the AL East.
“Besides what happened on the field?” Cora summed up the trip. “Outstanding.”