ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Having lost seven and a half games in the standings in the month of June, the Red Sox most assuredly have fallen.
Now the question is: can they get up?
Can the Red Sox slam the brakes on the kind of play they've displayed in recent weeks and reclaim their season? And how is it that a team that played as well as the Red Sox did for the first two months can play as poorly as the Sox have since late May?
One thing seems patently obvious, in the wake of yet another demoralizing defeat Tuesday at the hands of a team which had previously lost it last 11 games: any turnaround the Red Sox execute is going to be self-generated.
There will be no savior, no white knight on a horse, arriving via trade -- not anytime soon, anyway.
Like the under-siege babysitter in the horror classic When a Stranger Calls, the problems for the Red Sox are internal: "We've traced the (issue); it's coming from inside (the pitching staff).''
That much has been obvious for some time now. But what's most sobering is that the solution must be found within the organization.
"To say that someone else is going to walk through that door,'' noted John Farrell, "from another organization, I'm not banking on that.''
That's wise on Farrell's part, since Dave Dombrowski has signaled as much. There's not much help available more than a month before the deadline. And frankly, the Red Sox problems go beyond any one individual.
Say, for instance, that the Red Sox could somehow obtain an upgrade over Clay Buchholz. That still wouldn't account for the spot now made vacant by the demotion of Eduardo Rodriguez Monday night after the lefty was torched for nine runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
It would be difficult enough, given the calendar and the laws of supply-and-demand, for Dombrowski to land a quality starting pitcher before the end of the week. But to somehow acquire two arms? That's not happening.
Instead, the Red Sox have to get both Buchholz and Rodriguez to contribute.
Farrell essentially laid down a challenge to the players in his post-game exhortation late Monday night, pushing them to keep relying on one another and fight through their collective slump.
The rest will be up to pitching coach Carl Willis, who must identify the flaws for Buchholz and Rodriguez and guide them back to form. Willis was properly credited with doing a nice job after taking over a month into the season last year, but has not been as successful in stabilizing the rotation this season.
If the Sox don't show some turnaround, will Willis's job be in jeopardy? And further, how vulnerable will Farrell be if the Red Sox can't execute better?
There's some comfort in the fact that the offensive spigot seems turned back on in recent days, and with imminent return of Brock Holt, and, not far behind, Chris Young, the Sox should have a more formidable everyday lineup to say nothing of a vastly improved bench.
But then, for the most part, scoring runs hasn't been the problem often for the Red Sox.
It’s about the pitching, stupid. And the answers -- just like the problems that began this free fall in the first place -- must come from within.
Sean McAdam can be followed on Twitter: @Sean_McAdam