The Red Sox had a good weekend in San Diego, but they need great ones

 boston.com  08/26/2019 12:08:08   Jon Couture

COMMENTARY

Cleveland lost twice on Sunday, learning Jose Ramirez would need surgery on his hand before a furious comeback against Kansas City fell short. Tampa lost a second straight to Baltimore, ending a run of 21 straight games facing opponents with losing records an underwhelming 13-8. Oakland, too, lost a second straight to cross-bay rival San Francisco.

It was, as it has been countless times in 2019, right there for the Red Sox. In this case, a chance to gain on everyone theyre chasing, the perfect cap to what would be a perfect weekend in Americas pretty-close-to-perfect city, San Diego.

They responded by trailing 3-0 after 12 pitches, Brian Johnson giving up three in the first inning for the third time in two and a half weeks, and got four-hit by a quintet of Padres pitchers.

Its always important, manager Alex Cora said. Were running out of time.

Cora immediately followed by saying but well take two of three, which is a reasonable spin. Boston did finally break its Players Weekend hex, winning 11-0 on seven J.D. Martinez RBIs and 5-4 on Brock Holts 9th-inning homer after going 0-6 in the Little League-style unis the prior two years. (Ill say little on this years formalwear, their well-earned beating already itself beaten to death by the internet.)

Much like a double play or a pristine Sweet Caroline singalong, you cant assume a sweep no matter the competition, especially on the road. Despite Sunday, Bostons gained two games on the Rays in winning seven of 10, now six back with Tampa headed to Houston and hosting Cleveland while the Sox (70-62) visit Colorado (58-73, including 26-51 against .500-plus competition) and the Angels (63-70).

And yet &

We got to win, Holt said on Saturday night, when the bullpen more than did its part after Nathan Eovaldi was done before recording an out in the fourth. We have to win as much as we can.

Thats only further magnified when the teams theyre chasing are letting them hang around. Cleveland and Tampa are projected to win 92 games by Fangraphs, and Oakland 91. The Red Sox are at 87, the computers thinking theyll close 17-13  a hair worse than two of every three, though even that wouldnt be enough by those numbers.

This is probably going to come down to a handful of games. And for a team thats as talent-laden as this one, theyve let too many slip on days like Sunday.

Heck, lets excuse Sunday. San Diegos on the rise, Bostons playing on the other side of the country & its largely explicable. Getting swept in a doubleheader by MLB-worst Detroit on April 23, immediately after sweeping the Rays in St. Petersburg, still isnt. Splitting four with the Orioles at home on Patriots Day weekend, capped by another four-hitter just like Sundays, isnt much either. Four home losses to Toronto, whos 28-41 this season outside Canada, is tough to take. Losing Chris Sales 17-strikeout game is too.

Weve just got to get the job done, Cora said on June 26, when the Sox let a home sweep of the White Sox slip, 8-7  the only time this season Chicagos allowed at least seven on the road and won.

After Sunday, the Red Sox are 43-21 (.672) against the bottom 10 teams in the majors  from basement up, Detroit, Baltimore, Kansas City, Miami, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Colorado, the White Sox, and Seattle. Sound good? Its right in the mix among the other American League contenders:

Houston: 34-12 (.739), including 12-1 vs. Seattle
Minnesota: 42-18 (.700)
Yankees: 41-18 (.695), including 17-2 vs. Baltimore
Cleveland: 46-22 (.676), including 12-1 vs. Detroit
RED SOX: 43-21 (.672)
Tampa: 42-21 (.667)
Oakland: 23-17 (.575), including 0-6 vs. Toronto

The issue becomes when you cant even muster a .400 winning percentage against everybody else, as the Red Sox (27-41, .397) have failed to do.

The 2017 Astros, playing in a terrible division, played only 33 games against better than .500 teams in the regular season and were a pedestrian 18-15. Two of the Giants title teams this decade had losing records against better than .500 teams, and the other was just 44-42. They all cleaned up against the teams they should have beaten, got to October, then proved their mettle there.

The Red Sox havent truly cleaned up on anybody.Every team is going to squander a handful of games to even the worst opposition; none less than the world-champs-in-waiting Astros have proven that the last few weeks. Bostons are just magnified because of the hole from which theyve never been able to extricate themselves.

It was a good weekend in California: Eduardo Rodriguez was masterful on Friday, the bullpen gave up four hits in 11 innings the final two games (while picking up blown save No. 24 on Saturday, if youre interested in seeing the limitations of that stat), J.D. Martinez was 5 for 11 with three home runs, Jackie Bradley Jr. did a Spiderman thing that probably isnt in his top 15 catches &

The Red Sox need great weekends. Unless theyre content for their season to only have five more of them.

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