BOSTON — If the Red Sox lose the division, don’t call it a collapse. Don’t compare this team to 2011's, unless you're talking about the most basic commonalities: there was a lead in September and they didn’t hold it.
The Sox have never been head and shoulders better than the Yankees, at least not since the season got rolling. The Sox soared in August while the Yanks were trying to coax Aaron Judge out of a prolonged slump.
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The 2011 Sox had the majors’ best offense, just as the 2016 version did. If you entered September believing these Sox, the 2017 version, would run away with the division, you have already realized your folly.
Don’t be too sad. Who doesn’t enjoy a little down-to-the-wire jockeying?
Nonetheless, you should have known better. The smoke-and-mirrors trick the Sox offense pulled off in August was pretty convincing, though.
Eduardo Nunez will prove human, and has started to. Rafael Devers has hit a point where there’s reason to wonder if he’d start at third base in any potential playoff games. Christian Vazquez was otherworldly.
So at a certain point — now, yesterday, three months ago — it comes down to Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Andrew Benintendi has carried his weight, and Jackie Bradley Jr.’s been on and off, but a better performer than both Betts and Bogaerts offensively.
“Just not being consistent,” Betts said Monday after a 1-for-5 performance in a 10-4 loss to the Blue Jays. “Not swinging at good pitches. I mean, pretty much doing a whole bunch of things you’re not supposed to do.”
The starting pitching has been a rock all year. To think now that it's truly falling apart is over the top. The rotation has been a bedrock, and that's reason to believe in the group on a whole — even if Porcello’s proclivity for allowing home runs is distressing.
“Our guys are well aware of where we stand and what's transpired particularly over the last couple of weeks,” John Farrell said. “We're going through a stretch here where a couple turns through the rotation have been not as consistent and when we fall behind early in ballgames, the difficulty in being able to dig out of some of those holes is there. Of late, and this is probably more surprising than anything, is the number of balls that are going out of the ballpark. That hasn't been there all year and the last couple of weeks, it's been more dramatic certainly.”
Porcello took full blame for Monday’s loss, and said the Sox got their rear ends handed to them. They did. He did, certainly, with 10 hits surrendered in 5 1/3 innings, including three home runs — one to a No. 9 hitter who entered the day batting .182.
It was the kind of game that, even in a sport that avoids the rah-rah, seemed to be begging for a team meeting. Farrell said the Sox had one just four days earlier, although declined to detail it.
“There has been one. That was as recently as four days ago,” Farrell said. “The thing that we do frequently is that when we prepare for a city, for a team, for an opponent, we do have an opportunity to meet and those are regular.”
Maybe yelling and screaming would do no good at this point. Hitting more would.
The division’s far from locked up. If the Yankees grab it, don’t make comparisons to 2011. Those Sox looked like juggernauts. These Sox look like a good team that tricked people into thinking they're more.