Was this the night the Red Sox gave up?
How else does one explain their inactivity — the word that perhaps best explains the entire season — in the sixth inning on Tuesday night?
Why else would a fully-focused and properly-inspired baseball team have nobody warm in the bullpen with the struggling Andrew Cashner going through the order a third time, about to face one of the game’s premier power hitters, one who had already hit a towering homer two innings earlier?
Nobody was warm. A mound visit was all that transpired. And Cashner quickly allowed a second mammoth shot to Jorge Soler, a dagger that sank the Red Sox, who took a 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
The loss dropped the Sox to six games back of the second Wild Card spot with the Rays and A’s still playing late Tuesday night.
Just last Wednesday, Dave Dombrowski said the Sox didn’t need another pitcher at the trade deadline because they had faith in their bullpen and had already acquired Cashner.
Six days later, Cashner was knocked around the park by MLB’s 26th-ranked offense. The Royals plated six runs off him. They went deep three times. In Cashner’s five starts since the Red Sox acquired him from the Orioles, he’s 1-4 with a 7.54 ERA. He was 9-3 with a 3.83 ERA in Baltimore this year.
He might’ve been saved two of those runs had manager Alex Cora and his coaching staff decided on a quicker hook when Soler was due up in the sixth.
Over his career, Cashner has had major trouble getting through the order three times. Opponents’ OPS the third time through skyrockets from .696 to .736 to .799. The same trend exists this year.
In the fourth inning, with the Red Sox up 1-0, Cashner tried going high and tight with a fastball against Soler, who turned on it so quickly the ball shot toward the moon and hung there for a while, finally falling somewhere behind the Green Monster on Lansdowne Street.
Kansas City scored another off a long ball in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead.
The sixth inning was the Royals’ first shot at Cashner a third time through the order. Leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield collected his second hit to start the inning with a single. Alex Gordon grounded out, then Hunter Dozier hit a laser of Michael Chavis’ glove for another single.
Merrifield scored. And Soler was on deck, about to connect on his 31st home run of the season.
Instead of making a pitching change, Cora sent Dana LeVangie to the mound for a brief discussion. Two pitches later, Cashner hung a slider and Soler flattened it. Again it sailed over the Monster. Two more runs were in.
And instead of the Red Sox being just three runs behind with four more innings to hit, they were looking at 6-1 deficit and the air sucked out of Fenway Park.
It was the last pitch of the night for Cashner, as Cora went out to get him after the Sox had already secured their fate.
The manager can’t save his team from their poor play. There’s not a lot he can do about a starting rotation that has a 9.50 ERA in the last 10 games, leading to a 1-9 record that might’ve ended the Sox’ postseason hopes.
But the Sox looked lifeless on Tuesday night, the manager included.