By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — No team is happier to see the calendar flip from August to September than the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the team’s fortunes will flip heading into the stretch run of the season.READ MORE: Bill Belichick Turns Down Opportunity To Respond To Alex Guerrero: 'On Monday We'll Get To Next Week'
It was just one month ago that the Red Sox were in first place of the AL East. But things continued to go from bad to worst to atrocious to abhorrent over the last 31 days, and a 12-18 August now has the team sitting 10 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the division. Boston’s lead for the second AL Wild Card spot is down to just one game over the Oakland Athletics.
Those losses, 13 of which came against divisional opponents, are just part of the problem. The team hit rock bottom on Tuesday, when in the second inning of a 1-1 game, star shortstop Xander Bogaerts had to be pulled because of a positive COVID test. He became the sixth player lost this week because of COVID, joining Enrique Hernandez, Christian Arroyo, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Hirokawu Sawamura on the COVID list. A trio of coaches has also had to stay away from the team for either positive tests or for being close contacts.
COVID has slowly decimated a bullpen that has been spotty at best as of late, after doing most of the heavy lifting through the first months of the season. With the pitching staff deteriorating, Boston had to turn to newly acquired Brad Peacock as Tuesday night’s starter. The 33-year-old hadn’t started a game since 2019, pitching three games out of the Houston bullpen last September. He looked a lot like a pitcher who hadn’t seen a major league mound in a year, though his new team did him no favors.
After allowing just one hit over the first two innings — a solo homer to Randy Arozarena — Peacock ran into trouble in the third. With the game tied 1-1, he walked the leadoff man. Then he hit a guy. Both runners advanced on a deep fly out to center by Brandon Lowe, when Alex Verdugo made an extremely lazy throw into no one in particular. After another walk, two runs scored on a Wander Franco single when Hunter Renfroe made a bad throw into the infield that Bobby Dalbec couldn’t scoop up.
With the Rays now up 3-1, Peacock’s night was done. The horror show, however, continued. Stephen Gonsalves came in, making his first major league appearance since 2018. Another run scored when he uncorked a wild pitch, and another on an RBI single. Then Gonsalves hit the next batter, and two more runs came in when a shallow fly dropped between Renfroe and Yairo Munoz in shallow right field.READ MORE: Fantasy Football Start Or Sit Week 3: Is Daniel Jones Poised For A Big Week?
By the time the ugliest inning of the 2021 Red Sox season ended, the Rays held a 7-1 lead. The comedy of errors would have been laughable had it not been so putrid. Two bad throws from players known for giving it their all on every play all but sunk Boston’s chances of a competitive series against the Rays. It sums up where the Red Sox are mentally at the moment, and it has the team clinging to its postseason hopes.
The team’s COVID issue certainly hasn’t helped, but it shouldn’t be an excuse. The New York Yankees were decimated by COVID out of the All-Star break, but have gone 30-13 in the second half. The Red Sox are only as close are they are in the Wild Card race, trailing New York by two games, because the Yankees have followed up a 13-game winning streak with a four-game skid.
“They’re not going to stop [the season] for the Red Sox. We know that,” manager Alex Cora said after Tuesday night’s 8-5 loss. “We’ve got to figure this out, show up tomorrow, play good baseball, do it the next day, and then go home and see where we’re at.”
But even before the COVID issues popped up, the Red Sox had been a shell of their former selves. The comeback magic from the first half has dried up. After winning six of eight to somewhat right the ship, Boston has now dropped three straight.
This series against the Rays was an opportunity for the Red Sox to show they can still compete against top teams and should still be considered a threat in October. But a woeful August, and the team’s worst game of the year, will make every game the rest of the way feel like a playoff game.MORE NEWS: Celtics Reportedly Sign Garrison Mathews To Training Camp Roster
And right now, the Red Sox don’t feel like a team that can win the games that they need the most.