Was nightmare series vs. Blue Jays the beginning of the end for Red Sox?

Was nightmare series vs. Blue Jays the beginning of the end for Red Sox? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The season-defining nightmare stretches of Red Sox baseball are easy to remember. Think the 2006 five-game Fenway sweep by the Yankees, the September disaster of 2011, the eight-game losing streak wrapped around the 2019 trade deadline, the 28-5 annihilation at the hands of the Blue Jays last July.

In each case, the Red Sox were officially cooked and we knew it. The 2006 Red Sox shut down David Ortiz with heart palpitations amidst a rash of injuries. We need no reminder of 2011. The 2019 club stumbled meekly to the finish line. Last year’s team bemoaned the trade of Christian Vazquez and the impending free agent departures of Xander Bogaerts en route to last place. Each club missed the playoffs.

We still don’t know how the story will end on 2023, but Sunday sure felt like a preview. Completing their worst series of the season, the Red Sox looked disengaged and overwhelmed in a 13-1 defeat that concluded with infielder Pablo Reyes throwing 38 mph lollipops on the mound while the Jays laughed their asses off in the visiting dugout.

A weekend that began with the Red Sox hoping to claim sole possession of the third wild card spot instead ends with them five games behind the Jays after their seventh loss in eight games. They now trail the Yankees and Mariners, too, with all of their worst habits once again coalescing into a car wreck.

This is what a collapse looks like after a lost weekend that screams inflection point. Forget about baseball’s best record since June 30. If the Red Sox continue oozing down the standings like the contents of a sewer pipe, we’ll recognize this series as the beginning of the end.

That it came immediately after an ineffectual trade deadline that chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom defended by citing Boston’s remote playoff odds could define his legacy, too. A lot of us heard Bloom giving up on the season, and it looks like his players are following his lead.

The last two days brought an avalanche of embarrassments. On Saturday, Alex Verdugo was benched for arriving late to work, Rafael Devers booted multiple balls, and third base coach Carlos Febles fell asleep as the potential tying run was doubled off second to end a 5-4 loss.

At least they were in that one to the end. On Sunday, they fell into a 6-0 hole after center fielder Jarren Duran lost a two-out fly ball in the sun. It got so bad that manager Alex Cora lifted starters Justin Turner and Devers. He tried to save his bullpen by sacrificing reliever Mauricio Llovera, but five runs later he had to yank Llovera before eventually handing the ball to Reyes.

It was that kind of afternoon and that kind of series for the Red Sox, who suddenly face questions about everything from their professionalism to their preparation to their passion. It hardly qualified as a positive, for instance, to hear Verdugo make multiple references to the season’s final seven weeks after Saturday’s benching, as if he were counting the days until he could leave. It makes you wonder why Bloom refused to trade him, especially with prospect Ceddanne Rafaela absolutely destroying Triple-A.

Meanwhile, in the opposing dugout, the Jays arrived brimming with confidence, despite starting the season 0-7 vs. the Red Sox. Catcher Danny Jansen praised the front office for being “all in” with its deadline moves, while the Red Sox seemed simply relieved that Bloom hadn’t blown it up, a decision he probably already regrets.

The good news is the schedule. The Red Sox finish this 10-game homestand with seven against the bottom-dwelling Royals and Tigers before heading to D.C. for three vs. the woeful Nationals.

The bad news is also the schedule, since the Red Sox are in the midst of a stretch of 32 games in 34 days, and their pitching staff is being held together by shims and gum. Even with Chris Sale‘s return looming, the Red Sox continue to ask a ton of a staff that has been employing multiple openers for more than a month. It’s a recipe for burnout and that smell is smoke.

Of course, based on the last three days, the rest of the season may not much matter. The Red Sox tend to dramatically announce when they’re done, and this weekend had all the hallmarks of a surrender.

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