BOSTON -- It was more than an hour after another tough loss for the Red Sox -- this one by a score of 8-0 to the Angels -- and Trevor Story was still underneath the home clubhouse taking swings in the batting cage.
These are frustrating times for a team that has lost five straight series and is 1-6-1 in series play overall after losing the rubber match on Thursday afternoon at Fenway Park.
And it’s likely nobody is wearing that frustration more than Story, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against the overpowering offerings of Shohei Ohtani.
Well, at least nobody except for Red Sox fans, who showered Story with boos after his fourth strikeout of the day.
"Of course you hear it but that's part of it," said Story. "I strike out four times like that, that's to be expected a little bit. Come up in a couple of big spots and didn't come through, yeah, that comes with the territory. It's not something that caught me off guard."
It isn’t as if a tough day against Ohtani is uncommon for a hitter or an opposing pitcher. This is just what the megastar from Japan does.
For Story and the 10-16 Red Sox, this was more about the pileup of events since the season started.
Coming in as the prized new acquisition on a six-year, $140 million contract, Story hasn’t been able to put good games on top of one another.
When Story belted two run-scoring doubles on Wednesday night, he looked like he might be on the verge of something.
But then Ohtani stopped Story’s slight burst of momentum a day later. To Story's credit, he wanted to get the bad feeling out of his system right away, hence the post-game work in the cage.
"That's typical [for me]," said Story. "There's certain ways to handle things sometimes for me. [Thursday] felt like one of those days. Obviously not the results I wanted, it didn't feel right, so it was time to get in there and put in a little work."
For the season, the second baseman has a line of .210/.293/.296 with no homers and 29 strikeouts in 81 at-bats.
“I didn’t hear the crowd,” said Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez. “I don’t know what happened, but Trevor’s a professional. He’s a proven All-Star. I’m not putting anything past him. He’s a great player. He’s proven himself for a while now. So I always like to measure guys at the end of the year, not after a month.”
And that’s how the Red Sox would like to be measured as a team, though they know they can’t wait much longer to get out of a rut that started on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium and hasn’t really subsided. The Sox haven’t won more than two games in a row all season. The only series they won was from April 11-13 against a Detroit team that is 8-15.
At the end of Boston’s game on Thursday, only the Orioles had more losses than the Red Sox in the American League. Boston trails the Yankees by 8 1/2 games in the East.
The issues have been obvious. The bullpen is leaky. The offense hasn’t hit its stride. A lot of good starting pitching has gone to waste over the past two weeks, with Rich Hill’s performance Thursday serving as the latest example.
Then there is that annoying subtlety that always seems to find struggling teams.
“When we pitch, we don’t hit,” said Martinez. “When we hit, we don’t pitch. It’s a bad combo.”
It has been a particularly tough past two days for the Red Sox.
They were one strike away from winning Wednesday’s game, which would have given them a series victory against the Angels. Instead, the bullpen let it slip away in a 10-5 loss in 10 innings.
And on Thursday, the 42-year-old veteran Hill (five innings, one hit, no runs, six strikeouts) pitched to a standoff against Ohtani.
Tanner Houck, who has electric stuff, was expected to piggyback Hill and finish the game. But he allowed a two-run homer to Jared Walsh in the sixth and got hit by the Angels’ five-run buzzsaw in the eighth.
With a talented but underperforming White Sox squad coming in for a weekend series that starts Friday night, the Red Sox know that time is of the essence to get it together.
“The only way we’re going to get back to where we need to be is taking it at a smaller step than one game at a time,” said Hill. “It’s one pitch at a time, one swing at a time and being able to make things small, and not so big.”
What Hill sees is a team that is at a crossroads.
“Teams can go one of two ways. Kind of gravitate toward each other, or start to move away, and we really need to continue to keep pulling for each other, as everybody is in the locker room,” said Hill. “We can look at the road trip that we had, a few games here or there and it could have been a completely different road trip. But the fact is, it wasn’t, and we are where we are and we have to dig ourselves out of this.”