BOSTON -- Given John Farrell’s message to his veterans Sunday morning failed to produce the desired results, with the Boston Red Sox falling in galling fashion yet again, it might be useful to issue anew a reminder of how ill-tempered the citizenry here can become.
Folks around here, having endured the harshest of winters, are in no mood to have their summer spoiled, too, by a baseball team currently dedicated to the proposition that there are no limits to how badly it can underperform.
The Red Sox enter June only four games out of first place in the American League East, a standing that says nothing of how poorly they’ve played (an AL-worst run differential of minus-48) but speaks volumes about the company they’re keeping.
The New York Yankees, who are tied with Tampa Bay for the division lead at just a game over .500, just got through losing three of four to Oakland, the only team in the league with a worse record than the Red Sox. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, like the Red Sox, have lost more games than they have won. No team in the division has a winning record over the past 10 games.
With rain forecast through Monday night in Boston, the Sox postponed the first game of their series with the Minnesota Twins at Fenway. The game will be made up Wednesday as part of a split-admission, day-night doubleheader.
The math majors would tell you that all it takes is one hot streak for the Sox to tilt the numbers in the division to their favor. But those bearing witness to what has taken place on the field in the season’s first two months -- including a 10-19 May that matched the Miami Marlins for worst in the majors -- are disinclined to believe the Sox have such a streak in them.
With fans soured by two last-place finishes in the past three years, which can take the shine off any World Series trophy, no straw poll is required to gauge the level of disenchantment among those as horrified as Farrell was by Saturday night’s "unacceptable" 8-0 loss, only to be truly mortified by the details of Sunday’s 4-3 defeat to the Texas Rangers.
Ahead by a run entering the ninth inning -- a circumstance in which they had not lost all season (17-0) -- the Sox conjured a scenario of self-inflicted pain that trumped anything that has preceded it in this misbegotten season. The normally sure-handed Pablo Sandoval had a routine ground ball clank off his glove for a leadoff error. Two outs later, the tying run was on third base, but Koji Uehara was on the mound, and the Sox closer had converted all six of his save opportunities this month.
Until this one. Farrell, in part because Uehara has been so dependable, flouted convention and had him intentionally walk Prince Fielder, even if it meant putting the winning run on base. Rather than dealing with the .359-hitting Fielder -- who in his brief exposure to Uehara was hitless in four trips, striking out twice -- Farrell preferred to take his chances against the newly resuscitated Josh Hamilton, who entered the game as a pinch hitter.
Uehara had not given up a double all season and only three extra-base hits altogether. The slow-footed Fielder had not scored from first on a double all season.
So, of course, Hamilton times a diving Uehara splitter and shoots it into the gap in left-center for a game-winning two-run double. NESN analyst Steve Lyons complained after the game that the Sox outfielders should have been better deployed in a "no doubles" alignment, but Hamilton’s placement was impeccable, and Fielder rumbled home with the winning run.
The fall guys? There were plenty. Uehara, of course. Farrell, burned by a decision certainly more defensible than the one he took the rap for in Seattle a couple of weeks earlier, pitching to Nelson Cruz with first base open. Sandoval, with his second error of the game.
But as has been the case all season, there was plenty of blame to go around on an afternoon in which the Sox had back-to-back three-error games and failed too many times with men on base, going 3 for 14 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10.
The pitching remains suspect, of course, even though Joe Kelly allowed just one earned run in five innings, and the visit to Texas began with the electrifying debut of 22-year-old lefty Eduardo Rodriguez.
But it is the team’s offense that remains confounding. The Sox scored 82 runs in May, the fewest of any team for the month. The Rangers, by contrast, scored 158, almost double the Sox's output.
Hanley Ramirez went the first 24 days of the month without an RBI and finished with five, just two fewer than David Ortiz, who has just two home runs in his past 111 at-bats. Ramirez also has made Manny look like Yaz in left field, as more than one of his critics on social media have observed. Sandoval had just four extra-base hits in May. Mike Napoli is just emerging from a horrific six-week slump. Dustin Pedroia, who had a two-homer game Friday as part of a 10-game hitting streak, went 0-for-5 Sunday for the third time this season.
Thirty at-bats into his season, Rusney Castillo has yet to make an impact, all seven of his hits singles, with an RBI and a run scored. Xander Bogaerts had an 0-fer trip going until he had three hits Sunday. Mookie Betts had nine hits on the trip, hitting safely in all but one game, but despite the frequency with which he and Pedroia reached base, it didn’t translate into enough runs.
The "off with their heads" crowd is growing increasingly restless. Any grace period Farrell earned with a World Series title in 2013 has long since dissipated. General manager Ben Cherington, whose résumé bears both last-place finishes, is looking at a train wreck of an offseason, one designed to restore the Sox to contention that has fallen far short.
Both Farrell and Cherington were given extensions last year and to date have enjoyed the full support of ownership, which is not likely to abate any time soon. But even if two-thirds of the season remain, there can be no mistaking the urgency that awaits the Red Sox upon their return home.
This cannot stand.