After 100 days with their names penciled in for one playoff spot or another, one more pathetic performance in what is now better than a two-month stretch of mediocrity has the Red Sox on the outside looking in at the wild card race.
At this point, the games are starting to run together, since they're all almost exactly the same. The Red Sox do two things well, and don't even bother getting out of bed on the third. Tonight, they had pitching. Eight innings of three-run ball from Rick Porcello with just six total baserunners qualifies. They played defense, handling just about every ball they had any opportunity on.
What they didn't do was hit. They had a few here and there, scattering seven singles throughout nine tepid innings of work. But at the end of the day the only time they managed to push even one run across it came thanks to a hit batter and a wild pitch in the ninth, with Travis Shaw delivering a momentous ground ball out to make it 3-1 with all of one out left in the game.
The only guy who did particularly well for himself? Andrew Benintendi, who hit a grass-cutting single into left field in the third for his first career hit, then picked up another in the eighth. His hits came in Boston's only multi-hit innings of the night, but Xander Bogaerts ended both without bringing a run in.
For Porcello, it was certainly an odd night. He kept the ball largely on the ground or out of play, but three of the only times the Mariners were able to put some loft on the ball, it left the park. It's not like he wasn't keeping the ball down, either. Cruz, Zunino, and Lind just went down, got it, and powered it out. It's the sort of baffling outing that would feel a whole lot worse had the offense not made anything shy of perfection completely inconsequential with its vanishing act.
With the loss, it's now a three-game lead for the Orioles in the division, a two-game lead for the Jays in the race for the first wild card spot and, indeed, a half-game lead for the Tigers for the second. There's plenty of time to turn all three of those numbers around, but the problem is not so much where the Red Sox sit as where their trend suggests they will go from here. That's more than just two straight losses. It's 3-of-5. 7-of-10, and 9-of-13. The Sox have lost so many damn games of late that they've almost completely undone the good they did at the beginning of July and have been playing .500 ball since May 17th. The Red Sox have basically been a very good team for six weeks, and utterly mediocre for eleven, even as their pitching has rounded into shape.
For a long time there, October was not a question of "if," but "when." With less than two months to go, though, that has very much changed. If the Sox don't correct their course in a hurry, it's going to be an ugly winter in Boston.