So this is what adversity feels like.

The Boston Red Sox have lost six of their last eight games. Over the weekend, they were swept in a series for the first time all year. Their lead in the American League East was down to six games Monday morning, and just five games in the loss column. It hadn’t been that low since the start of the month.

That was the day before the Red Sox swept the New York Yankees in a four-game series at Fenway Park, and when New England began to prepare for the playoffs two months before the end of the season.

Won’t we ever learn?

It’s never that easy. To quote Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own, “If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

The Red Sox had Monday off to put the worst weekend of the season behind them. It wasn’t just that they lost. It’s how they lost. They were outhit, outpitched, and outmanaged by the Tampa Bay Rays. Give the Rays credit – their eight-game winning streak is the longest active streak in baseball. But they’re 19 1/2 games behind the Sox in the standings.


The Red Sox looked sloppy throughout the weekend. They were picked off and thrown out on the basepaths. They looked tentative fielding the ball. They left too many men on base.

Most importantly, their pitching has gone south. Red Sox starters posted a 12.34 ERA over the weekend. Relievers checked in at 5.11. Those are not the numbers of a championship-caliber pitching staff.

“It was a bad weekend,” said Manager Alex Cora after the sweep.

Yes, it was. The worst weekend of the year. And Cora took his share of criticism when he gave Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez the day off Sunday.Two of his best hitters could only watch as their team was limited to three hits in a 9-1 Tampa Bay victory.

We’ve discussed Cora’s belief that it’s more important to rest players than it is to “chase wins” (his term). It would look like a panic move if he suddenly changed course after losing Saturday night. He saw the strategy lead to a championship in Houston and he thinks it can happen here.

Meantime, the Red Sox had no answer for Tampa Bay pitcher Blake Snell. And Nathan Eovaldi, the former Ray, has given up 15 earned runs on 35 hits in 17 innings since starting his Red Sox career with 15 shutout innings. Rick Porcello has been inconsistent. Brian Johnson can’t seem to get beyond the fifth inning. And Hector Velazquez gave up eight runs in the first three innings of the series Friday night.


Chris Sale can’t get back soon enough. He told the Boston Globe he has resumed throwing and is on the way back. Eduardo Rodriguez made a rehab start Monday night in Portland, and could return to the rotation by the weekend.

There is help on the horizon. That, more than anything, is why there’s no need to hit the panic button. At least not yet.

Around here, we remember the epic collapses of 1978 and 2011. So when we see a first-place team stumble in late August we get concerned. Very concerned.

That’s why this is suddenly a very important week for Boston. Their opponents, the Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox, are a combined 54 games under .500. Two weeks ago you expected the Red Sox to breeze through this week. Now they need to win some games. Next week they face Atlanta and Houston, a pair of first-place teams. They can’t wait until then to figure things out.

We’ve said all along this team will be judged on its success in the playoffs. The Sox want that to be the case. They don’t want us judging them by the past week of sloppy play. With 30 games remaining, they need to get back to playing like the team they were at the start of the month.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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