Boston’s Christian Vazquez, walks back to the dugout after striking out in the Red Sox’ 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. It was the lastest in a string of frustrating losses for Boston. Steven Senne/Associated Press

Steve Pearce was in Boston over the weekend, catching up with friends and teammates. Pearce, the 2018 World Series MVP, is still a long way from returning from a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

His presence was a stark reminder of how much has changed at Fenway Park over the past year. Pearce was acquired on June 29, 2018, to help the Red Sox get more production against left-handed pitching. He did exactly that. By this time last year he had played 24 games with the Sox, hitting .314 with six home runs. He finished 2018 hitting .304, dominating left-handers, then led the team to its fourth championship in 15 years.

This year he’s only played in 29 games with the Red Sox, spending most of the year fighting off injuries. He’s hitting just .180 with one home run.

And his team, running away with the AL East at this point last year, began the week 16 games behind the Yankees.

When the Sox re-signed Pearce to a one-year, $6.5 million contract during the offseason, it seemed like a home run for Dave Dombrowski, the president of baseball operations. Pearce was a World Series hero coming back on a short-term deal.

Now it seems Dombrowski would have been better served using that money to shore up the pitching staff. The team’s offense has been fine without Pearce while the pitching has been in a funk all season.


That was on display again over the weekend, when Red Sox starters gave up seven first-inning runs over three games. Andrew Cashner only gave up one run in Sunday’s extra-inning loss to the Angels, but turned in one of his worst performances ever – walking five of the 13 batters he faced and hitting another.

This has become the Bizarro World Red Sox season, the exact opposite of 2018. Last year any move Manager Alex Cora made was perfect. This year, not so much.

On Sunday, Cora inserted newly called up infielder Chris Owings into the lead-off spot. He went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts.

Cora pinch ran Mookie Betts in the eighth inning. He was caught stealing.

The manager left Matt Barnes out for a second inning. Barnes gave up the game-tying homer to lead off that second inning.

Players seem to be trying to do too much to make things happen. In that same game, Rafael Devers was thrown out trying to steal third with one out in the first inning. Christian Vazquez tried to bunt Betts to second in the eighth but popped out instead.


“We made some decisions we don’t usually make,” Cora said. “We did some stuff we shouldn’t do.”

By then, Pearce was already back in Fort Myers, Florida, to resume his rehab. It would be easy for him to pack it in – he’s still unable to run – and chalk up 2019 as a lost season. To his credit, he hasn’t.

“I’ve just been exercising and trying to stay in shape,” Pearce said. “Really just trying to build the muscles up around it. It’s very tough. My boys are out here grinding every day and you want to be with them. That’s what’s motivating me to get back.”

Pearce is facing long odds in his quest to get back from the early-season injuries, just like his team is facing long odds in trying to come back from their early season struggles.

Last October, Pearce was an improbable star in a magic ride. Ten months later that ride seems like a long, long time ago.

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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