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Sox losing WC pace after being shut out by Jays

@IanMBrowne
September 11, 2019

TORONTO -- It was just one week ago that Eduardo Rodriguez led the Red Sox to victory against the playoff-bound Twins, and it wasn’t out of the question that the defending World Series champions could make one last push to play baseball in October. At that point, they were 5

TORONTO -- It was just one week ago that Eduardo Rodriguez led the Red Sox to victory against the playoff-bound Twins, and it wasn’t out of the question that the defending World Series champions could make one last push to play baseball in October.

At that point, they were 5 1/2 games back in the Wild Card fight.

As the Sox were getting belted around Rogers Centre by the Blue Jays on Wednesday -- the final score 8-0 -- a week ago felt like a month ago.

Box score

Boston has now lost five in a row, and six out of its last seven. The Sox are still mathematically alive, but no longer in any sort of realistic contention.

With 16 games left, the 76-60 Red Sox are 10 games behind the A's for the second American League Wild Card spot.

The situation is almost unfathomable for a team that came into the season thinking it had a real shot to become MLB’s first repeat champions since the 2000 Yankees.

“We didn’t expect to be in this situation. The effort is there but the results are not,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “Obviously everyone is disappointed with what’s going on, and it hasn’t been good the last 10 days offensively.”

The bottom is falling out at a time the offense -- the team’s strength all season -- has gone ice-cold.

“Maybe trying to do a little too much, everybody’s trying to make something happen and score runs or at least give us some opportunity but we haven’t really done it,” said first baseman Mitch Moreland.

The Sox mustered just two hits (singles by Rafael Devers and Brock Holt) in Wednesday’s loss. The team’s streak of at least one extra-base hit in 159 consecutive games -- the fourth longest in MLB history -- came to an end. The Sox were five games away from matching their own MLB record set in 2004-05.

“Aw, I wish I knew that before,” said shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “It sucks [to have it end].”

Regardless of their place in the standings, the Red Sox are finding it hard to accept the way they’ve played of late, including two straight defeats to the 57-89 Blue Jays.

“I mean, nobody, for sure, expected us to come here and lose these first two games against these guys,” said Bogaerts. “Regardless of where we were in the standings or how much of a chance we still had or didn’t have, all the guys on this team are good enough to collectively beat the Blue Jays. It hasn’t been that way these last two games. It’s been really, really rough.”

Cora sees clear reasons for the recent struggles of his offense.

“It’s been tough the last week, to be honest with you,” Cora said. “If you start looking at our lines, it’s nine strikeouts, 10 strikeouts, no walks, one walk. We’re not controlling the strike zone right now. Today it was fastball up, breaking ball down, and we didn’t make adjustments. We didn’t get on top of the fastball, swung and missed at the breaking ball and it was an easy game for their pitching staff.”

There was also a defensive breakdown.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth, the Sox hadn’t allowed a baserunner yet when Cavan Biggio hit a popup into short left field. Devers raced back and whiffed on it, but didn’t seem to be in good position to make the play. Fundamental breakdowns are a pet peeve for Cora.

“That’s kind of like the play the other day with Brock and J.D. [Martinez],” Cora said. “Popup priority, it’s the shortstop or the third baseman, the second baseman or the first baseman, the corner outfielder or the infielder. Raffy has made that play a lot of times but he was in the shift. It was a long ways, it was a long ways to [Andrew Benintendi], but I think Benny should have taken over.”

Without question, the last few days have been settling for the Red Sox, as president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was let go after Sunday night’s loss to the Yankees.

Still, Cora wants to see his team go down fighting these next couple of weeks.

“Play good baseball. It doesn’t matter, nothing changes,” Cora said. “Preparation is the same, conviction is the same, we gotta play good. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not going to punt -- obviously we’re going to take care of players [with rest] and all that, but we’re talented enough to win games, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

For a team that won the AL East the last three seasons, playing out the string has to be a hollow feeling.

“It’s not tough, you just have to do it,” said Benintendi. “Obviously we know where we’re at and a limited amount of games left but you still want to go out there and win. It’s not like we’re trying to lose. Just have to show up and play.”

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