NEW YORK -- It may be a small consolation for a team with a $180 million payroll and pre-season expectations to match, but if nothing else, the Red Sox have proven themselves adept at playing the role of spoiler.
Their comeback effort fell 90 feet short Sunday when Jeurys Familia overwhelmed Mookie Betts in the top of the ninth with a 100-mph fastball, stranding the potential tying run 90 feet from home.
But the Sox did win the series at Citi Field against a first-place New York Mets team this weekend. That's part of an upward trend that has seen them go 14-12 this month. Even the losses -- like Sunday's -- are competitive.
The Red Sox aren't going anywhere in 2015, but they've shown they’ll make life difficult for anyone they play in the final five weeks.
"I thought overall these guys played really good baseball for three days,'' said interim manager Torey Lovullo. "Unfortunately, we didn't win today. But the way we came back, the resiliency we showed, our ability to execute when we needed to, grind down some really good starting pitching...
"I was really pleased with what we saw in these three games. In this entire road trip, actually.''
Since Lovullo took over for John Farrell, the Red Sox haven't lost a series, going 4-0-1 in the last five sets.
The next five weeks will offer plenty of games against teams competing for a playoff spot. In fact, of the remaining 32 games, only six games (three with Philadelphia next weekend and three in Cleveland to end the season) won't be against teams in playoff contention.
Lovullo knows that, at the very least, the Sox have shown they aren't about to quit.
“I know they're all pretty excited,'' said Lovullo. "I know they're all a little bit down right now (after a one-run loss), but we'll get over that and be ready for tomorrow. I just know the New York Mets know a good baseball team walked through here for three days and that's what I'm really pleased with.''
It's difficult to say exactly why the team has improved in recent weeks. Maybe being out of contention has created a less pressurized environment. Or maybe the influx of young players has created a more energized clubhouse.
"This past six weeks, with a new (president of baseball operations in place), as a young player, you definitely want to show him what you're capable of doing,'' said David Ortiz. "And you want to stay consistent with it because I know there's going to be some changes here next year. So, it's fun to watch.''
On the team bus to Citi Field Sunday morning, Lovullo said he overheard some players talking about embracing the role of spoilers.
If nothing else, it suggests the Sox have some pride left.
It may not be what they -- or anyone else -- envisioned for them back in March or April, but if the Red Sox are playing otherwise meaningless games for the last few months, they might as well play them well and see if they can make other teams as miserable as they are.