ST. PETERSBURG -- For the Red Sox, a lost weekend at Tropicana Field was capped by a 3-2 loss to the Rays on Sunday Night Baseball in which their pitching settled down but their recent offensive woes continued.
The sweep left Boston with a season-long four-game losing streak heading into Monday’s off-day in Detroit.
This off-day is better-timed than most.
The Sox, who have lost five of their last six and are 8-11 since July 10, look like a team that needs a day to regroup.
They look like a team that needs to reclaim the main part of their identity -- which is a relentless offense.
“Tough one,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We didn’t do much offensively. Today was our best game [of the weekend]. That’s more like it. They scored three runs. We had traffic. We didn’t push them to the plate, but overall, I’m pleased with this game.”
Though it was a tense, competitive and entertaining game between two top teams, the Red Sox looked completely out of sorts offensively.
Over the first eight innings, Boston went 0-for-16 with runners on base.
When a rally in the top of the ninth fell just short, the Sox finished 1-for-18.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of guys on base, we’ve had a lot of opportunities. We just can’t get that hit,” said slumping slugger J.D. Martinez. “That seems to be the common thing right now. We had bases loaded twice [Saturday] and couldn’t get the hit. Guys on base today, we couldn’t get the hit. It’s just one of those things, it is what it is.”
The game ended, perhaps fittingly, when Martinez hit a popup to shallow right.
Martinez went 0-for-5 on the night and 1-for-14 on the weekend. In his last 11 games, Martinez has a line of .114/.133/.159 with no homers and two RBIs.
“Trying to figure it out,” said Martinez. “Grinding on it, trying to figure it out. I feel like I’ve hit some balls hard, come up short and kind of haven’t hit balls hard. It’s just one of those things. It happens.”
The four-time All-Star -- who prides himself on being an elite run producer -- left six on base in the series finale.
“I've always said when you walk, when you control the strike zone, good things happen. He's not doing that right now,” said Cora. “He's actually chasing a lot of pitches. He was in between early on, but he's still J.D. Martinez. I'll take that at-bat at the end, first and third, with a chance to tie the game with him at the plate.”
After coming to town with a 1 1/2-game lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East, the Red Sox departed with that same deficit.
There are 55 games left in Boston’s season. In other words, plenty of time.
“I really don’t think there’s room for panic here,” said pitcher Nick Pivetta, who took the loss. “We’ve played incredible baseball up to this point. It’s a 162-game season, and we’ve just got to kind of grind through this and move on to Detroit. I think we go out and we win a series against them and we just kind of move on from there.”
The squads will meet again for three games at Fenway Park from Aug. 10-12, at which point the Red Sox hope to be playing better and have better health than their current state of affairs.
Chris Sale and Kyle Schwarber are two players who might take part in that series for the Red Sox.
While the Yankees are threatening to make it a three-team race for the division title, the Red Sox and Rays have been 1-2 in some order for nearly the entire season.
“We lost four in a row, [and] they're playing good. Early in the season, we were playing good and they sucked,” said Cora. “It's part of baseball. It's 162 games. You've got to stay the course. Right now, we're in second place in the division. We don't like what happened this weekend, but it's part of it.
“They went on a roll for a month and a half, they won like 25 out of 28 games and we didn't play extremely well and we're still here. Obviously we don't like losing and we want to be more consistent, but it's just part of the season.”