Round and round they go, the wheels spinning as the Red Sox continue the most frustrating winning season in recent memory.
But has anything really changed?
The Sox scored 13 unanswered runs to erase a 6-0 defecit and humiliate the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, completing a sweep of a team that should be welcomed back with flowers and chocolates when it returns to Fenway Park for the season’s three final games at the end of September.
The Red Sox are 11-5 t his season against the O’s, who quite literally tripped over themselves in a disgraceful six-run, lead-changing sixth inning.
The play that will be shown on blooper reels happened with the O’s clinging to a 6-4 lead in the sixth. The Sox had runners at second and third and one out, and Mitch Moreland hit a shallow fly to left. Let’s quickly recap this disaster.
Left fielder Jace Peterson inexplicably was playing right up against the warning track, the shortest left field in the big leagues, giving himself no chance to reach anything shallow. Third baseman Renato Nunez could have run 10 feet to make the catch, but for some reason he stopped halfway to the spot and looked at shortstop Jonathan Villar, who was sprinting from second base, where he had been shifted on the lefty Moreland.
Nobody caught the ball.
“We got lucky there,” manager Alex Cora said.
Sam Travis scored easily from third. Villar picked the ball up and threw home. You can watch the replay 300 times and never understand why Chris Davis tried to cut off the throw, leaping near the third base line. Bouncing around like Seinfeld’s magic loogie, the ball then took a left turn and ricocheted behind home plate, allowing the tying run to score from second on a pop fly that traveled 110 feet at the most.
Maybe these games should only count as half-wins against an Orioles team with the fourth-worst winning percentage in the past 15 years.
Unfortunately for Cora’s club, the Rays, who the Red Sox are frantically chasing, are 8-4 against the Orioles this year and still get to play them seven more times, with another seven games against the Blue Jays.
The Sox only have three games each left against the O’s and Jays but might have an easier remaining schedule overall, with eight games against three non-competitive teams on the West Coast — the Angels, Rockies and Padres — starting Friday. But remember what happened the last time the Sox were in the Pacific time zone? They began the year 3-8.
So here we are with exactly six weeks to go and the Sox still are 6½ games behind the Rays for the second wild card spot. They’re five games behind the A’s, who also are chasing the Rays.
We’ve learned almost nothing.
This team doesn’t quit, which is a good quality and is a reason not to give up. But they’ve been that way all year. The offense is a juggernaut. Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts would be fine choices for AL MVP if Mike Trout wasn’t so much better than the field.
The starting rotation has no MVP candidates. That hasn’t changed either.
Nathan Eovaldi was gaining momentum out of the bullpen as the Sox were stretching him into a multi-inning role with an eye on using him in the rotation. But they might have waited too long after using him in quick stints last Sunday against the Angels and Tuesday against the Indians, all leading up to this start against the Orioles.
He lasted two innings and put the Sox in a 5-0 hole.
“I was just all over the place,” Eovaldi said.
Cora admitted it hasn’t been easy for Eovaldi to shuffle between short relief, long relief and now the rotation. And it won’t happen again.
“He’ll be back in (the rotation) in San Diego,” Cora said. “He’ll be OK. No, we’re not going to (use him in relief before his next start).”
Cora paused, then said, “Unless we need him.”
The all-in mentality, managing like every game is a playoff game, is absolutely necessary at this point. And it’s led to five straight wins. The team seems to be responding well.
But something is missing. Dave Dombrowski’s inactivity at the trade deadline still stands out as perhaps the most costly mistake of the season. Chris Sale is visiting with Dr. James Andrews on Monday. David Price is on the injured list.
The starting rotation currently consists of Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez and who else?
The Sox can hit. They can erase big deficits. They can beat up on bad teams, take advantage of mistakes and build little winning streaks when the stars align.
What they haven’t been able to do all season is what they’ll need to do in the final six weeks if they want a prayer’s chance: beat the good teams, too.
It feels like there isn’t enough time or enough arms. It feels like it’s just too late.