CLEVELAND — It’s getting a little late in the season for moral victories, but the timing is feeling just about right for hopelessly demoralizing losses.
Monday night at Progressive Field had some elements of the former but ultimately felt exclusively like the latter after the Indians erased a Red Sox comeback from 5-1 down with one swing of Carlos Santana‘s bat for the walk-off 6-5 victory.
In losing for the 12th time in 15 games, the Red Sox found a different kind of low. This one wasn’t about being outclassed from the first pitch or overmatched in the bullpen. It was an honest-to-goodness rally that left potential heroes like Xander Bogaerts barely able to break a whisper when it went for naught.
Bogaerts’ two-out double off the outstretched glove of right fielder Tyler Naquin had tied it with the Red Sox down to their last out in the ninth. But reliever Marcus Walden, who hadn’t allowed a hit since late July, hung a slider and Santana blasted it out the other way to left-center leading off the bottom of the frame.
The momentum from the top of the ninth hadn’t even dried when the Indians painted right over it.
“It was joyful for a quick five minutes,” Bogaerts said.
What a killer. Trailing 5-1 in the third, the Red Sox chipped away. They rallied on solo homers from J.D. Martinez and Jackie Bradley Jr., an RBI double from Brock Holt, and then Bogaerts’ shot to right that eluded the stab of Naquin, who had earlier robbed Martinez of extra bases with a leaping catch at the fence.
“It’s just the kind of night it was,” Walden said. “Bogey’s hit the top of the wall and theirs didn’t.”
Human nature being what it is, the Red Sox could be forgiven for just accepting that this isn’t their season. They’ve fallen so far out of the playoff race, citing the standings feels needlessly cruel. (But for those who must know: they trail the Twins by 10.5 games, the Rays by eight games, and the first runner-up A’s by 6.5).
Their deficit is entering insurmountable territory, which might explain the feeling of despair in the postgame clubhouse. Bogaerts wore the loss particularly hard, which makes sense, because he has played as hard as anyone this year.
“It’s rough, man, especially knowing how important every game is from now forward,” Bogaerts said. “Obviously I think that inning, from scoring in the ninth, they might’ve been a bit down. But Santana picked up his closer big time. That’s how this game goes sometimes.
“It’s tough, man. I don’t know what to say.”
He was asked specifically about finding a way not to become demoralized.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “Try not to think about it as much. I know everyone in this room cares a lot. It’s really frustrating and annoying when the results aren’t the way you want them to be.”
Manager Alex Cora tried to find the silver lining.
“Honestly, it’s tough because I do feel this is one of the best games we’ve played in a while as far as being locked in, grinding at-bats,” he said. “That’s a good baseball team over there, everybody knows, we were in a hole, we kept fighting, fighting, fighting, we found a way to tie the game but then that happens. Waldy has been outstanding for us for a while, it just happened he hung a breaking ball there, but it’s one of those that hey, it really sucks but at the same time, we did a lot of good things today that we haven’t done in a while, so that’s a positive.”
A year after watching everything go right en route to a dominant World Series season, the Red Sox just don’t have it. While Cora needs to believe Monday’s loss provided hope for better days, his players feel more resigned to their fate.
At some point, the losses simply become too much to take.
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