BOSTON — By all accounts, Sunday was not the Red Sox’s day.
Roughly 30 minutes before the first pitch, scheduled starter Michael Wacha was placed on the 15-day injured list with left intercostal irritation. Tanner Houck got the start instead, going 2 2/3 innings in Boston’s 3-2 loss to the White Sox in the series finale at Fenway Park. The loss sealed a series sweep for Chicago and a season-high fifth straight loss for the Red Sox, who dropped to 10-19 and 10 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, pending the outcome of the second game of New York’s doubleheader against the Rangers.
The first five innings followed a recent trend for Boston, as the bats were held to just five hits by starter Dallas Keuchel, who entered the game with an 8.40 ERA. The Red Sox got on the board in the sixth, after back-to-back singles from Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts set up Devers to score on J.D. Martinez’s groundout. One batter later, Christian Vázquez drove in Boston’s only other run of the game on an RBI single to left.
The Red Sox, who have a minus-23 run differential on the season, scored just five runs in the three-game series. The heart of the lineup in Devers, Bogaerts and Martinez accounted for six of Boston’s nine hits and both runs scored Sunday. That trio entered the day hitting .309 with an .833 OPS. The rest of the lineup? A combined .188 average with a .528 OPS.
“Yeah, very surprised,” Devers said of the team’s lack of results on offense. “I know the quality team that we have, so I know in the end everything is going to turn out and we’re going to get to our full potential. But right now, it’s not going our way. But we’re working every day to get to where we need to get.”
One surprise in particular has been Trevor Story’s slow start with his new team. Story, who faced an abbreviated Spring Training after his late signing and the birth of his first child left him little time at camp, is batting .194 with 35 strikeouts, including five in this series. After striking out four times against Shohei Ohtani in the series finale against the Angels on Thursday, Story headed directly to the batting cage following the last out.
“As an offense, we’re not doing too much,” manager Alex Cora said. “We cannot look at one guy to get the offense going. He [Story] knows he’s working, and we know he’s going to be better. Right now, he doesn’t look great, but we trust the player.”
The Red Sox had 10 hard-hit balls (95 mph or higher exit velocity) on Sunday, with the hardest coming off Christian Arroyo’s bat on a 107.6 mph double in the fifth inning. Five of the hardest balls were hits, with the other five resulting in flyouts or groundouts, including Martinez’s run-scoring groundout in the sixth.
“We need to make solid contact in the zone,” Cora said. “And there was some progress today, but we still have to get better.”
Even White Sox manager Tony La Russa shared in the surprise over Boston’s slow start to the season.
“I wouldn’t have bet on it. I have a lot of confidence in our team, but I know how good they [the Red Sox] are,” La Russa said. “They were all really intense, tense, stressful games. No leeway there to think anything except prepare for the worst and hope for the best. They hit some balls hard. Their time is coming. They’re too good.”
The Red Sox have an off-day on Monday followed by a two-game set in Atlanta and a three-game series in Arlington to face the Rangers. They’re hoping the day of rest and upcoming road trip can serve as a reset and spark a turnaround for the season.
“I mean, every time you lose, it’s gonna be hard,” said Houck, who was charged with three runs in his first start since April 21. “This team’s gone through a lot at the beginning. But it’s a very strong and mentally tough team, so I’m excited for when everything does turn around and we truly show our potential.
“I don’t think this is even half of our best, but just keep showing up every day, keep working, keep doing the little things, because they matter. And no matter how hard of a time you’re going through, you gotta continue to work, continue to push. And that’s how you get yourself out of these holes.”