'Let's start now': Red Sox put an end to skid

July 26th, 2022

BOSTON -- The last two weekends, which bookended the All-Star break, included a five-game losing streak the Red Sox hope to never think about again.

Getting outscored 67-13 in a five-game stretch is something that can leave a scar if you let it.

The Red Sox are determined to put it in the past. The first step toward doing so was a grind-it-out special that resulted in a 3-1 win over the Guardians on a murky Monday night at Fenway Park.

A rain delay of 38 minutes was in no way an annoyance. Manager Alex Cora’s team would have stayed at it all night to get a victory that put them back over .500 at 49-48.

For all the struggles of late, Boston is only three games back in the American League Wild Card standings with 65 games to go. This, despite a rash of recent injuries that have left the rotation and lineup almost unrecognizable at times.

Playing again without Rafael Devers (right hamstring strain), J.D. Martinez (back spasms) and Trevor Story (right hand contusion), it was Alex Verdugo who gave a compromised lineup a lift with an RBI double off the Green Monster that snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the sixth.

“I don’t really think those [previous] five games were too close,” said Verdugo. “We got it put to us.”

The left fielder explained what the mindset was coming into a new series.

“It’s a Monday, the start of a new week, and the mindset was that what happened in the past happened,” Verdugo said. “We’re still at .500. We’re still [close] in the Wild Card I believe. Hey, boys, let’s go, let’s start now. We get that these last two weeks have been [bad], but we’ve got to keep playing.

“You can’t just pout about it, cry about it, or worry about what happened last week. No, let’s keep playing, let’s play today, let’s give ourselves our best chance to win and put us in a good spot.”

The fresh start included the reappearance of those yellow City Connect uniforms that the Sox are 6-0 when wearing this season and 12-2 over the last two years.

In truth, the reversal of fortune probably had more to do with the AL East at last being out of Boston’s sights, at least for a while.

The Red Sox are 12-29 in games within the division this season, including a 4-13 stretch before Monday of games exclusively against AL East opponents. Nick Pivetta, who bounced back with 5 2/3 strong innings, busted out of his slump with his second strong start against Cleveland this season. Like his team, Pivetta has fared far better out of the division (2.33 ERA) than in it (7.57 ERA).

To reach their ultimate goal in 2022, the Sox will eventually have to fix that AL East issue.

For now, however, they just need to get healthy and get back to playing clean baseball.

The health thing is still a work in progress. All they can do there is let nature take its course.

Devers, the mashing superstar, is first eligible to come back on Aug. 2, the same day as the Trade Deadline.

Story, who got his hand bruised badly while swinging at a pitch that hit him against the Rays on July 12, might not be back much before Devers, though he is finally able to swing a bat again.

Martinez could be back as early as Tuesday, which wouldn’t be a second too soon.

Playing clean baseball, however, is a different story. The Red Sox should be able to control that with better attention to detail. Monday snapped a streak of six games in a row in which they made at least one error.

“We played good defense,” said Cora. “I think that was the difference. We turned some double plays. Obviously, Jackie [Bradley Jr.] made some nice plays in right field, and we grinded at the plate. It wasn’t perfect, but when you’re going through stretches like this, you give yourself a chance by playing defense.”

The Red Sox are the definition right now of a team that is on the bubble of being buyers or sellers by Aug. 2.

Though chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom is a broad thinker and likely won’t base too much on the seven games that will be played before the expiration of the Trade Deadline, the club could give him more to think about by getting hot this week.

“We do understand that you could be a seller, you could be a buyer, and it all depends,” said Verdugo. “For us, we know we’ve got a good team, we’ve got a good group of guys and we can go somewhere. We’re hoping that we just stick with what we’ve got, maybe get a couple of additions and we make a postseason push.”

Monday was a good day. Given everything that has transpired of late, the Red Sox were wise to leave it at that in their postgame analysis.

“Yeah, we went 1-0 today,” said Garrett Whitlock, who earned a two-inning save. “Tomorrow, it’s back to the clean slate, so let’s try to go 1-0 tomorrow. The past is behind us and the future is too much to worry about. So let’s just worry about today and what we’ve got.”