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Sox lose to rivals: 'We've all been grinding'

@IanMBrowne
August 1, 2020

The thunder that was supposed to be the 2-3-4 spots in the Red Sox’s batting order has been more like a slight crackle the first week of the season. The trio of J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts once again represented something less than the big, bad three they

The thunder that was supposed to be the 2-3-4 spots in the Red Sox’s batting order has been more like a slight crackle the first week of the season.

The trio of J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts once again represented something less than the big, bad three they are supposed to be in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

Box score

"Yeah, it's been tough. We've all been grinding," said Martinez. "Fortunately enough today, Bogey looked better, hit the ball hard tonight. It would be nice at least for one of us to get going a little bit, but, yeah, it's been a little tough stretch, so it's one of those things. It kind of is what it is."

While Christian Vázquez had picked up the slack the previous two nights -- both victories at Citi Field -- he went quiet as well (0-for-4, four left on base) in the opener of a three-game series in the Bronx. The defeat dropped Boston to 3-5.

Compounding matters is that key table-setter Andrew Benintendi (2-for-21) is also mired in a slump, and he was out of the lineup against New York lefty Jordan Montgomery.

"And I know that leadoff spot is important, because you're getting on base for those guys," said Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke. "We'll continue to figure that one out. I do like [Kevin] Pillar there against left-handers. Benny will get it going against the right-handers and we'll be good also."

When a team isn't winning, baserunning mistakes like the one Pillar made Friday sting more.

The veteran outfielder was doubled off first on a medium-depth fly ball to Aaron Judge in right off the bat of Martinez.

"Obviously you can't make mistakes too often on the bases, and we have," Roenicke said. "Pillar didn't realize he was throwing behind him there. We just have to be more aware and get back there. You need help from your base coach, and if we're first and second, two outs, we're certainly a lot better off than being out of the inning. So we need to do a better job of that."

And when the Red Sox had the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, Michael Chavis -- who accounted for Boston's only run with a solo shot -- hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end that threat.

"Yeah, just I feel like every time we've got a guy on, groundout double play," Martinez said. "We just kind of kill the rally in some way."

The one thing the Red Sox were projected to do a lot of this season is pound the baseball, which is why the last week has been so frustrating for the hitters who are being counted on the most.

Martinez, who was placed in the unfamiliar No. 2 spot for analytical purposes just before Opening Day, is slashing .219/.324/.313 with no homers and three RBIs.

How would he assess his swing?

"It's awful," Martinez said. "Yeah, I don't know. I'm just trying to find it really. Just grinding away, figuring it out. I'm going to try to get it."

Of all the hitters on the Red Sox, Martinez has probably been most impacted by the pandemic-induced rule changes about film study during a game. He is a creature of habit -- as obsessive about his mechanics as any player in the game.

"It's definitely been an adjustment for me," said Martinez. "It's a big part of my routine and who I am, the studying and everything. It's one of those things where I have to find a new routine really."

Devers, who was a devastating force for most of last season, looks perhaps more lost (.172/.226/.310) than Martinez.

Bogaerts, who had two singles and a walk on Friday, is making better contact than the other two, but without much production (.656 OPS).

"You look at those three and if I'm an opposing team, I really don't want to go through those three," said Roenicke. "And right now, the three aren't clicking. So we saw shades of J.D. early, we see Bogey off and on, but once all three of them get it going, we're going to score runs."

With eight games down and 52 left, time is of the essence.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.