NEW YORK -- All season long, Red Sox manager Alex Cora has had a mantra that his team has so often succeeded by.
“We’re just trying to win the series,” Cora has said more times than you can count.
After a flat 9-1 loss to the Yankees in Sunday night’s rubber game in the Bronx, the Red Sox have lost their last three series.
Making that tougher to swallow is that on all three occasions -- at Anaheim, home against the Phillies and at the Yankees -- Boston won the first game.
Cora does see a consistent theme in the recent lull, during which the team has lost four of five and six of nine.
“We haven't hit,” said Cora. “We haven't hit since we were on the West Coast. We've been chasing pitches. We're in one of those stretches, kind of like when we played Houston [May 31-June 3]. We love to swing the bats, but we’ve been chasing pitches out of the zone for a while.”
Before this inconsistent stretch, Cora’s team was 16-7-5 in series this season.
With a strong showing this weekend, the Red Sox could have essentially buried a short-handed Yankees squad in the standings. Now, New York is still hanging around, seven games back.
In Sunday’s game, the Sox didn’t hit or pitch and the Yankees broke it open with a four-run bottom of the seventh.
The biggest positive is that the Red Sox are still in first place in the American League East, but basically by a thread (a half-game) over the Rays.
Perhaps, catcher Christian Vázquez suggested, the Sox need to get their swag back.
“I think we need to continue to play hard, like we are in first place. We need to act more like we’re in first place. I think that’s the key for us,” Vázquez said. “We need to be more cocky, like ‘We’re in a good place.’ And we’re not acting like that. That’s what I see right now.”
To hold on to their perch or expand the little breathing room they have right now, Boston will have to get back to winning series.
And it won’t be easy given what is ahead this week.
First up is a three-game series in Buffalo against the Blue Jays. These are the same Blue Jays who have won four in a row and hammered Boston pitching when last the clubs met at Fenway Park from June 11-14.
Then, the Yankees, suddenly with a jolt of momentum after somehow winning a series against the Red Sox despite getting hit hard by COVID-19 and injuries the last few days, will come into Fenway for a four-game series that starts Thursday.
“It's part of the schedule,” said Cora. “There are positives, but as a group, we need to get better.”
Vázquez thinks it’s just a matter of doing the little things.
“We need to stay together. It’s not confidence,” Vázquez said. “We need to put everything together and do our job. It’s little things, you know? Play the game right.”
Martín Pérez, who took the loss on Sunday, suggested there is nothing to worry about.
“I think we’re OK. When we started the season, we lost three games and then after that we won nine in a row,” Pérez said. “We’re going to get it together again. We’re good. We’re one of the best teams in the big leagues. [Monday] is going to be the start of a good series against Toronto. We’re going to be fine.”