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After comeback, walk-off loss 'tough to swallow'

@IanMBrowne
August 13, 2019

CLEVELAND – Xander Bogaerts came up with the big swing for the Red Sox when they needed it most, clubbing an RBI double with two outs in the ninth to tie it up against the Indians on Monday night at Progressive Field. But it turns out that the biggest swing

CLEVELAND – Xander Bogaerts came up with the big swing for the Red Sox when they needed it most, clubbing an RBI double with two outs in the ninth to tie it up against the Indians on Monday night at Progressive Field.

But it turns out that the biggest swing for the reeling defending World Series champions was that of momentum, which careened horribly off track in the bottom of the ninth inning when Carlos Santana led off the inning with a walk-off homer against Marcus Walden that handed Boston a 6-5 loss.

Box score

Keep in mind that this was a game the Sox trailed by four runs after three innings, only to come roaring all the way back.

If the big knock by Bogaerts off the wall in right against Indians closer Brad Hand had led the way to a victory, it could have been just what manager Alex Cora’s team needed.

Instead, they were handed a gut-punch of a loss that made them 3-12 since July 28.

And this is why Bogaerts, the would-be hero, looked and sounded devastated after the game.

“In that moment you try to help your team and in the end it wasn't enough,” said Bogaerts. “If it went over [the wall], maybe we'd still be playing. It was joyful for a quick five minutes.”

There has been precious little joy for the Red Sox over the last two weeks, as their worst stretch of the season has them pinned 8 1/2 games back for the second Wild Card spot behind the Rays.

It is the first time since June 14 the Sox (62-59) have been as few as three games above .500. This, for a team that ran roughshod through the competition a year ago, going 108-54 during the season and 11-3 in the postseason.

As Bogaerts’ glassy eyes demonstrated, one of the biggest challenges the Red Sox face with 41 games left in the season is not letting each loss demoralize them as they try to go on that prolonged run of wins that has been so elusive.

“It's rough, man, especially knowing how important every game is from now forward,” said Bogaerts. “Obviously I think that inning, from scoring in the ninth, they might've been a bit down. But Santana picked up his closer big time. That's how this game goes sometimes.”

Bogaerts was then asked again about the jarring turn of events late in the game.

“It's tough, man. I don't know what to say,” said Bogaerts.

At times this season, Cora has been understandably tough on his team in postgame media sessions, particularly when it comes to the shaky starting rotation, the inconsistent bullpen and the offense’s struggles at times in key situations.

But after Monday’s loss, Cora seemed to be trying to keep his team’s spirits up by what he said.

“Honestly, it’s tough because I do feel this is one of the best games we’ve played in a while as far as being locked in, grinding out at-bats,” Cora said. “That’s a good baseball team over there, as everybody knows. We were in a hole. We kept fighting, fighting, fighting. We found a way to tie the game but then that happens.”

After the equalizer by Bogaerts, the shortstop then stole third, and a base hit from Andrew Benintendi would have put the Sox in front for the first time all night. But Benintendi flew out to deep right to end the top of the frame.

With Cora’s bullpen drained due to the recent lack of innings from the starting rotation, he had little choice but to send Walden back out for the ninth rather than bring in closer Brandon Workman in a tie game.

Walden’s fifth pitch of the ninth was a slider that found too much plate, and Santana ripped it to give the Indians the type of joyous victory celebration the Red Sox so often experienced last season.

“It’s tough to swallow,” said Walden.

How do the Red Sox regroup from here? The red-hot J.D. Martinez, who started the charge back from the four-run deficit with a solo shot in the fourth, tried to explain.

“You know, I think we just kind of continue to have fun,” said Martinez. “Continue to try to keep the clubhouse loose. There’s two ways we could do it. We could hang our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves or we can just keep going out there every day and battling and having fun and enjoying it.”

Given their current state of affairs, can the Red Sox swiftly turn the page on such a gut-wrenching defeat?

“We’re about to find out tomorrow,” said Cora. “But obviously you saw their faces, you saw the reaction. It’s not easy. You fight, fight, fight and one swing and it’s over. I don’t know. We’re about to see tomorrow.”

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