BOSTON -- The Red Sox's most recent loss -- a 4-hour, 19-minute affair with the Cubs, the longest nine-inning game in the majors this season -- was hard to see as anything more than an agonizing step closer to the basement floor of the AL East standings.
The 16 runs they gave up were a season-high. Their relievers seemed helpless against one of the National League's worst lineups. They left 14 men on base.
They're now nine games below .500 (38-47), 8.5 games behind the first-place Blue Jays, and they have the third-worst run differential in the majors.
Yet Red Sox manager John Farrell found reasons to be optimistic -- nine of them -- after the 16-9 loss. Treating the team's performance on the mound as a one-night anomaly, he reflected on his its work with the bats.
"A number of really positive things offensively," he said. "Particularly the top half of the order. Multiple base hits again: Brock Holt, [Dustin Pedroia], David [Ortiz], [Mike Napoli] a big night offensively, but still not enough to come back from the deficit here tonight."
Given that the Sox's primary issues of late have come from the batter's box, their offensive outburst carried promise.
The starting pitching -- outside of Brandon Workman's hiccup Wednesday -- has been very good since Clay Buchholz's return from the disabled list. And while Boston's bullpen has holes, a handful of which were on display as the Sox got swept, it has been the most consistent overall strength for the team over the course of its disappointing season.
"Bigger picture is still confident in our guys," Farrell said. "This is a one-game situation where from the mound it got away from us. But yet at the same time, still have confidence in the guys in our clubhouse. Feel like we do, and have done, a very good job overall from the mound. From a bigger-picture aspect, I think there's very solid pitching, very good pitching and definitely inside our building right now. And yet we've gotta look to continue to lengthen out our lineup."
Even as the Red Sox were being embarrassed, there were actually some promising signs hinting at future lineup depth on Wednesday.
Mookie Betts had a two-hit night. The former left-field platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava (pinch-hitting in the ninth) each had two RBI. The left side of the infield is still a mess offensively, but even AJ Pierzynski extended his hitting streak to four and reached base twice (with the help of his first unintentional walk since June 15).
Wednesday night was what it was for the Red Sox: one night of offense after a couple of days of silence at the plate. But for a team that had just been swept by the last-place Cubs, it could take some solace in the fact that its apparent low-point of the season was not without a smidgen of hope.