A homestand that began with guarded optimism, with a ring ceremony providing a brief escape from the Red Sox’ current predicament, ended with the light sound of booing from the few fans remaining at Fenway Park on Monday afternoon.
By the time the rebuilding Orioles scored their final run in a 8-1 victory over the Sox, a “let’s-go-Bruins” chant broke out along the third-base line.
It’s as if attention is being turned anywhere but the baseball diamond in Boston, where the local nine couldn’t wait to play after an 11-game West Coast trip to begin the season, but quickly left the fans without much to celebrate.
The Red Sox split their four-game set with the Orioles, a team that won 61 fewer games than the Sox just one season ago. The O’s out-scored them 21-16 in the series.
Mookie Betts went just 2-for-14 with two singles in the series. Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-11. Andrew Benintendi hurt his foot and didn’t play the final 14 innings.
All of this as the Red Sox prepare for their first taste of action with the New York Yankees on Tuesday, when the Sox arrive in the Bronx for a brief two-game set with their American League East rivals. Each team appears to have their rotation set with both eyes on this series, with Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi scheduled to pitch against lefties James Paxton and J.A. Happ, who have dominated the Red Sox in recent years.
Though it hardly seems to matter who pitches against the Red Sox lately.
Orioles starter Dan Straily entered Monday’s game having not recorded a single strikeout in two previous appearances, in which he had allowed 10 runs, including four homers, in just 4-⅔ innings against the Yankees and A’s.
He held the Red Sox hitless until the fifth inning, allowed one run on two singles and a groundout, and got the win for completing five innings of work. He struck out his first two batters of the year: Steve Pearce and Betts.
Spot-starter Hector Velazquez, used again to give the rotation some extra rest and line up the struggling Sale for a start in New York, was effective over three challenging innings of one-run ball, but Marcus Walden allowed three runs in the fifth to let the O’s take a commanding lead.
The Red Sox had some positive moments, with Pearce making a nice sliding catch in shallow left field, and Xander Bogaerts turning an acrobatic double play by himself after starting the play on the first-base side of the bag at second. Christian Vazquez, making his first career at second base, played the position just fine.
Defense was far from a problem.
It was the anemic offense against a non-threatening set of pitchers that could be cause for concern.
Perhaps the low point of the entire series was in the eighth inning Monday, when Heath Hembree served up an 89-mph pitch that didn’t move and sat dead-center for Chris Davis. Davis came into Fenway Park looking for his first hit of the year. He expanded his hitless streak over 60 plate appearances. Then he recorded four hits in his last three games against the Sox, including a two-run blast off Hembree’s straight pitch that went 408 feet into the visiting dugout.
The Red Sox have yet to win a series in five tries this season and have been out-scored all five times.