By JIMMY GOLEN, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) _ Most of the fans had left Fenway Park by the time the Red Sox scored against the Toronto bullpen to cut a five-run deficit to two. And when the game ended in another Boston loss, there wasn’t enough energy left in the crowd for a healthy boo.
The defending World Series champions lost again the next afternoon, completing back-to-back sweeps at Fenway Park by the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. It’s the first time Boston has gone winless on a homestand of at least six games since Butch Hobson presided over the 1994 team.
With seven losses in a row in all, that brings up another embarrassing name in franchise lore: Bobby Valentine. Not since the Red Sox lost the last eight games of his one-year reign have they slumped this badly.
“It’s frustrating right now for a number of guys,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after losing to Toronto 7-2 on Thursday to end the homestand without a win. “Everyone in our uniform is aware of what’s taking place.”
Less than seven months after going from worst-to-first, following the collapse under Valentine with a World Series victory, the Red Sox have reversed course again _ and not in a good way. They were a season-worst six games under .500 heading into this weekend’s series against Tampa Bay, five games out of first and just one game ahead of the last-place Rays.
“There’s plenty of time to turn it around,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “We’ve just got to do it tomorrow. We can’t waste any more time.”
The front office apparently agrees.
The signing of shortstop Stephen Drew to a one-year deal Wednesday helps shore up the left side of the infield, at least while third baseman Will Middlebrooks is injured. Drew was the shortstop on the World Series champions, but he remained without a team after rejecting Boston’s $14.1 million qualifying offer over the offseason.
At the very least, his signing is a signal that the team isn’t ready to concede its title defense and use the year to get young players like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. some experience. But Drew, who batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs last year, might not help much at the plate for a team that is hitting .245 for the season.
The Red Sox are 12th in the AL with 4.02 runs per game, and their .238 batting average with runners in scoring position is 13th out of 15 teams in the league.
“We’re in a stretch of games here where we’re giving up too many runs early and we’re scuffling to score runs,” Farrell said. “That’s a dangerous combination.”
And pitching is a problem, too.
The starting rotation has a 7.23 ERA during the current skid, allowing a batting average of .354.
“It’s not fun going out there, giving up a bunch of hits, trying to stop a losing streak, trying to win, trying to just keep guys in the ballgame,” said Jon Lester, who gave up seven runs on Thursday to see his ERA balloon from 2.67 to 3.36. “The list goes on and on of things that I just flat out didn’t do today.”
Lester gave up two runs in the first on Thursday and five more during a second inning in which six of the first seven batters reached base. At one point, he disgustedly threw the ball aside behind home plate.
But he thinks it’s too early to give up.
“We’ve been around the block a few times. We’ve all been through stuff like this,” he said. “We all go out and try and execute that play. We’re just not doing it right now.”
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