Well, that was a killer.
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The scoreboard loomed large as the Red Sox fell in a 6-0 hole vs. the Twins and then slowly crawled towards the light on Tuesday night.
The Rays had already dropped the opening game of a doubleheader to the lowly Orioles, drawing the Red Sox within five games of Tampa Bay in the wild-card race, and the nightcap was a one-run game. The Indians, meanwhile, were struggling with the White Sox, locked in a 2-2 tie in the seventh.
By the time Andrew Benintendi blasted a solo homer to bring the Red Sox within a run at 6-5 in the eighth, the Indians had swung from a 5-2 lead to a 6-4 loss, the Rays were closing out a 2-0 win, and the A's trailed the Angels on an early Mike Trout homer.
The stars were aligning for the Red Sox to make up ground on every wild-card contender, if they could just figure out the Twins in the ninth. When Brock Holt led off with a single, the 20,000 or so fans remaining at Fenway Park came alive.
Pinch-runner Marco Hernandez advanced to second on a sacrifice, but neither Mookie Betts (sharp comebacker) or Rafael Devers (strikeout) could advance him.
When the 6-5 loss was over, it felt like it had taken the Red Sox season right along with it. Manager Alex Cora pulled levers and mashed buttons like he was directing a frantic Game 7, but all his machinations ended up doing was burning through his three best relievers with nothing to show for it except a demoralizing defeat. And now two more against the Central-leading Twins and then four vs. the mighty Yankees loom.
"It's very tough, because we know where we're going this week and how many off days we don't have," a deflated Cora acknowledged. "We pushed those guys very hard on the road trip."
Instead of being 4.5 games of the Indians, the Red Sox still trail by 5.5, and they're running out of season to do anything about it. Only 24 games remain, with three teams blocking their path to October. A team that hasn't been able to beat good clubs all season once again fell to one of the haves after feasting on some have-nots out West. Why should we have expected them to change their stripes now?
"Keep pressing and keep going hard," said starter and loser Rick Porcello. "That's it. That's all you can do."
Porcello played a featured role in the Sox losing ground, allowing a pair of mammoth homers to Nelson Cruz and Miguel Sano in a three-run fifth when the Twins opened that 6-0 lead.
"Yeah, I sucked," Porcello said. "That's the bottom line. Six runs in four innings, not going to get it done. We need to win every game right now and that's the part that hurts the most is going out and giving it up like that.
"Same old story," he added. "Misfiring on pitches, Christian [Vazquez] to Cruz and Sano, he called different pitches and I shook off to get to those and I didn't execute them. Not only does it result in a hit but it resulted in home runs. It's entirely on me. I don't know what to say besides I'm frustrated, embarrassed, that's it...It's been tough all year. That's it. No excuses other than I've been terrible."
Even down 4-0, Cora had left-hander Josh Taylor warming. He summoned Taylor in a 6-0 game after Sano practically knocked down the back wall of the stadium with a homer, and if that seemed like a panic move, it's officially panic time.
Taylor has been a find this season, and he was followed by left-hander Brian Johnson, righty Marcus Walden, lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, righty Andrew Cashner, and finally closer Brandon Workman, who struck out the side in the ninth to keep the score at 6-5. Hernandez also struck out the side in his frame, the seventh, with a series of electrifying fastballs.
Cora would love these guys to carry him to the finish, but the starters must contribute more than three innings a night, and outside of Eduardo Rodriguez, they appear incapable of doing so.
So, what you get are nights like Tuesday, when the scoreboard practically begs you to complete the comeback and tighten the race, but instead, it just ends up taunting you with what might've been.
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