BOSTON - As the season's second month gets underway, the Red Sox are stuck doing a familiar dance step: two step forward, one step back.
For every evidence of progress, there's a corresponding move backward. Just when you think they've gained some traction, they get stuck again and slip in the wrong direction.
The day-night doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays on Thurday couldn't have been more of an example.
The Red Sox essentially shoved the doubleheader down the Rays' throats, figuring that now was the time to take advantage of them. Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson are still sidelined, and the Rays needed to get into their bullpen in the sixth inning in the series opener Tuesday night.
If the Sox waited until the Rays' next visit, the pitching staff would be healthier. So, why not play them when they're down?
That strategy backfired in big way. The Rays managed to work their way around six walks by fill-in starter Cesar Ramos and hold of the Red Sox 2-1 in the first game, as the Sox went a woeful 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
In the second game, Rays pitchers issued 10 walks, tossed two wild pitches and a hit a batter -- and still, the Red Sox couldn't take advantage, with a poor 3-for-12 effort with runners in scoring position.
But beyond the missed opportunities, there was more sloppiness by the Sox.
Grady Sizemore twice made outs on the bases -- once trying to move up on a pitch in the dirt and once being picked off first to end the inning.
And then there was the sorry sight of a routine infield pop-up dropping in between Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts, an error which proved particularly costly a batter later when Sean Rodriguez homered and an unearned run crossed the plate.
Here it is the first week of May and the Red Sox can't seem to get out of their own way. Literally from Opening Day, the team hasn't been able to produce when the chances present themselves.
They sit 12th out of 15 American League teams in batting average (.223) with runners in scoring position.
John Farrell, striving to find positives, noted after the second loss that at least the team was creating opportunities -- i.e. getting baserunners and scoring chances.
That's true enough. In 18 innings Thursday, only three times did the Red Sox go down in order -- three up, and three down. But in the 15 innings in which they had baserunners, the Sox scored in exactly two of them, a pathetic rate of offensive efficiency.
It seems unimaginable, but almost 30 games into the season, the Red Sox have yet to put together a winning streak longer than two games. The same team which so famously never lost more than three in a row in 2013 now can't assemble the most modest of winning streak.
The afternoon loss marked the seventh straight time since the first week of the season that the Sox were in position to win a game to reach the .500 mark -- and instead, lost it.
That sound you hear at Fenway? It's the sound of the Red Sox spinning their wheels, sometimes unable to get out of their own way, most of the time going nowhere fast.