In an ideal scenario, these were the games in which the Red Sox would build their nest egg.
Series against the Rays, White Sox, and Blue Jays do not make for an easy section of the schedule, but when the Yankees, Rangers, and Tigers are coming up next, they need to be the section a team takes advantage against.
Oh, sure, the Sox were on the right track. 2-1 against Tampa Bay, 3-1 against Chicago, leaving them three over .500 with only a winnable home series against the Blue Jays between them and the (realistic) ideal: a situation where a split of the next eight games wouldn't be so bad.
Instead, they're now in need of a win just to enter the series above .500.
For once, the Red Sox did not start off behind. Instead, starting for the first time in three days thanks to the righty on the mound, Jarrod Saltalamacchia gave the team a big early lift. With Adrian Gonzalez singling and Cody Ross doubling, Saltalamacchia got a breaking ball that broke weakly over the plate and pulled it into the bullpens to make it 3-0 in the second.
Unfortunately, Aaron Cook wasn't quite up to task this time around. An error helped the Jays answer with a run in the third, but the real damage would come in the sixth and seventh. Edwin Encarnacion was first to strike, managing to clear the Sports Authority sign with a two-run homer. Then, on the first pitch in the seventh, J.P. Arencibia would put the Jays on top with another shot to left. A second error would help to produce another couple of runs for the Jays in the seventh, but by then the necessary damage had been done.
This was a failing of all aspects of the team to some extent. The starting pitching was actually decent. Cook finally suffered his homers, but without the errors he wasn't really giving up the baserunners that would make those too problematic.
The defense was of course to blame for said errors, costing the Sox what could have been a winnable position of two down late.
The relief pitching wasn't nearly so acceptable as Cook, with Matt Albers allowing three baserunners without recording an out and Tazawa letting in a run in the ninth.
And then there's the hitting, which is really the worst of it. Because for the past three nights the Sox have really been shut down. Sure, two swings of the bat earned them six runs and they managed to squeeze another one across in the ninth on Friday. But really it's been just another extended drought for a team that seems to run into this sort of thing too often.
Tomorrow is as close to a must-win as the Sox have had in this season so far. A three-game losing streak and a .500 record is not the sort of situation the team wants to enter this terribly difficult stretch in.