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Red Sox 3, Rays 5: Frustration, defeat, and despair

The Red Sox lost, and it's getting harder and harder to believe they'll stop doing that anytime soon.

Jim Rogash

The Red Sox fell for the ninth time in eleven games Tuesday night thanks to a combination of a few bad plays and a lot of bad luck that was as frustrating as it was lethal.

On any given night of the year, this could go down as one of the most frustrating losses of the season. The Red Sox made both the pitches and swings necessary to win a ball game. Had things fallen differently, this could have been a 6-3 Red Sox win. Instead, their line drives found gloves in the infield and outfield alike, while the Rays had a check-swing double and one crucial pop-up to first which lost itself in the grey Tropicana roof with two outs in the fourth inning, turning a rough three-run frame for Lackey into a five-run meltdown. An early lead, earned by a three-run homer from David Ortiz in the first, was lost, and with it went the game.

Tonight, however, coming as the ninth loss in eleven tries, it has a special tenor to it. This loss feels like a backbreaker. For all that the Red Sox are still five games over .500 less than a quarter of the way through the season, this no longer feels like your average slump. Instead, it feels like September 2011. The beginning of the end.

Through most of these games, the Red Sox have simply been bad. Their offense has struggled in big situations, or simply been shut down as a whole. Their defense has made gaffes big and small. Their pitching has not been as consistently excellent as in the first 28 games.

Tonight, however, it was not just about bad pitching or bad hitting, but a pop fly which the stadium itself turned into a two-run hit. Line drives that found Ben Zobrist perfectly time and again. No, the Red Sox did not play fantastic baseball tonight, but it felt like they played well enough to win. And still they did not.

Tomorrow is another day, but right now every first inning seems to bring less and less hope, every ninth further confirmation that April 2013 has given way to September 2011. It might be that the lingering trauma of that terrible month that makes it hard to see a blip on the radar for what it is. Good teams have slumped hard, and certainly to all the teams under .500 out there seeing Red Sox fans freak out about being 22-17 must seem silly at best. A coldly logical look at the season-to-date will provide a much more positive outlook, and probably chalk up much of this past week towards random variance (particularly involving hitting with runners in scoring position compared to hitting without). But when in freefall like the Sox are, how high you started your descent from doesn't seem nearly so important as the fact that the ground is coming up to hit you awfully fast, and your parachute just won't seem to open.

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