By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox have pulled off some impressive disappearing acts over the last few weeks. Since the trade deadline, Boston’s lead in the AL East has completely disappeared, and now, so has their lead in the AL Wild Card race.

Shoot, did we say impressive? We meant disappointing.

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On July 30, the Red Sox owned a 1.5 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the lead in the AL East and an 8.5 game lead over the Yankees. The division lead vanished fairly quickly, but at least the Sox had the Wild Card as a safety net.

That net has been ripped to shreds, and that once seemingly insurmountable lead over New York has faded. After dropping both games of a doubleheader to the Yankees on Tuesday, the Red Sox are now on the outside looking in. The Yankees and Oakland Athletics (both 68-53 on the season) now sit percentage points ahead of the Red Sox (69-53) in the Wild Card race with 40 games left on the season.

Tuesday’s double drop was a discouraging one for a team hoping to make a run over the final six weeks of the regular season. Boston lost 5-3 in Game 1 before dropping the evening tilt 2-0. The Red Sox got solid starting efforts from Tanner Houck and Nathan Eovaldi in each game, but in Game 1 the bullpen couldn’t throw strikes went called upon and blew a 3-2 lead. In both games, the Boston offense failed to get clutch hits when they were needed most.

Boston left nine batters on base in Game 2 and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Rafael Devers left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, which was the team’s best chance to score in the nightcap. All five of the team’s hits were singles.

In Game 1, the Red Sox had the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh, but came away with nothing when Travis Shaw lined out and Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe struck out to end the game. Between the two losses on Tuesday, Boston left 14 runners on base and went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

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“It was a tough day overall,” manager Alex Cora said after the Game 2 loss. “I mean, obviously, to come here and lose both games — yeah, we were in it, but we didn’t do much offensively.”

The Red Sox will look to salvage the final game in New York on Wednesday night when Nick Pivetta takes the hill. The righty has been solid in August, sporting a 2.16 ERA over 16.2 innings of work, allowing just 11 base runners.

But if the offense isn’t clicking and has more “empty at-bats,” as Cora called them on Tuesday, and the bullpen continues to flounder, it won’t really matter that Boston’s starters have turned things around.

“We’re playing meaningful games, but we have to be better. That’s the bottom line,” said Cora. “It’s frustrating that we are not playing the way we’re capable of, and it’s been going for a while in the sense that the offense is not where we want to be.

“We’re not happy that we lost two games, but the deflating part of it, the frustrating part of it, if people feel that way in the clubhouse, they need to turn the page and be ready to play tomorrow,” he added. “From my end, you stay the course.”

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The schedule will lighten a bit to close August, with series against the Texas Rangers (42-77), Minnesota Twins (53-67) and Cleveland Indians (58-60) on tap for Boston. But the Red Sox are going to have to get back to beating good teams if “staying the course” is going to be good enough to retake a playoff spot. Staff