It is eighteen innings into the second half of the season, and the Red Sox have still not scored a run.
A little over a week ago, before the series against the Yankees, it was understood that the season hinged on the games to come. They had won some games when wins seemed mostly meaningless, to the point where a strange thing happened and suddenly they were in position to actually do something. To give their lost season some small hint of life. But there was still a test to pass: a few series against good teams. The teams that you have to be able to beat to actually be a contender.
How long that test would last would depend on the early returns. Four straight wins and we could say they were back in it. Four straight losses and they'd be out. Somewhere in between and we'd keep on waiting to see which way the Red Sox broke.
Five games in, and they're 1-4 with 12 runs scored. It was probably the most important stretch of their season, and they didn't even show up to play.
It was a complete game shutout from Garret Richards that did the job this time. Two hits--both from Pablo Sandoval--and a single Alejandro De Aza walk were all Boston could muster. All-Star Brock Holt returned to the lineup to go 0-for-3. And even the players that reached base managed to disappoint in their other moments, with Sandoval producing another defensive gaffe (the kind that make the rest of his contract so frightening) and De Aza striking out after Sandoval led off the fifth with a double, leaving the Sox unable to manufacture a run even off of that golden opportunity.
The final score of the game might suggest positive things from the pitching staff, at least. Wade Miley, after all, looked legitimately impressive in his start, and with him around for a while to come, that's the sort of good news that matters even in losses that are driving that final nail into the coffin.
But Rick Porcello didn't really provide that tonight. He got around some sticky situations to keep the score under control even with Sandoval costing him an unearned run. But it's how the other two runs scored that really undermines the result: two home runs from Kole Calhoun, the latest in a long line of bombs that have plagued Porcello all season. So long as he's giving those up, he's not going to be able to produce any consistent results. The problems that have left his season such a disaster remain, and right now it feels like the only thing with a chance to clear them up is to shut him down and go back to the drawing board.
It's telling, really, when the best part about the game was Justin Masterson hitting 90+ out of the pen in three scoreless innings of relief. If, indeed, he proves a viable relief pitcher, that's the sort of news that would have been big...if the Sox had won some more of these last five games.
But they didn't, and there's no real reason after watching these games or the season as a whole to believe they'll go on the kind of run over the next 13 they'd need to to even bring the team close to being worthy of further investment at the trade deadline.
Even bad teams go 9-3. But good teams don't go 42-49.