Boston Red Sox

McAdam: Red Sox gotta win at least some of the close ones

McAdam: Red Sox gotta win at least some of the close ones

BOSTON - Red Sox reliever Brad Ziegler was trying to put yet another late-inning loss into perspective in the Red Sox clubhouse.
     
Ziegler had come into the game in the top of the eighth inning, entrusted with a one-run lead.
     
In the span of a few minutes, the Yankees would score three runs on three hits, each of which could have easily resulted in an out.
     
It was that kind of night.
     
"Any loss is tough,'' philosophized the reliever. "[But] I would say this way is  a little better than getting getting the crap beat out of us.''
     
Is it, Brad? It it really?
     
Maybe the accumulation of multiple late-inning, close losses has Ziegler grasping at straws.
     
There certainly have been enough of them of late. As Alex Speier of Boston.com pointed out, the Red Sox have lost five games in their last 20 in which they were leading after seven innings. Prior to that, in their first 93 games, they had suffered three blown saves.
     
And the losses have come in almost every conceivable manner. 
     
* There was a two-run throwing error by Hanley Ramirez to begin the recent 11-game West Coast trip.
     
* There was the gopher ball to Robinson Cano, served up in Seattle by Fernando Abad, hours after he joined the team on a Deadline Day deal, obtained specifically for such matchups.
     
* There was Wednesday's unraveling in which the team failed to fully take sufficient advantage of three bases-loaded opportunities in three successive innings, then saw three pitchers combine to get six outs while allowing seven (!) runs.
     
* And finally there was the death-by-a-thousand-cuts gem from Thursday, in which the Yankees' three big "hits" were, in order: a routine grounder to short that resulted in an infield hit because A) the Red Sox were in a shift and Hanley Ramirez collided with Gary Sanchez at the moment a throw to first arrived; a line drive hit directly at rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who promptly lost the ball in the lights; and a squibber that traveled no more than a dozen feet from the plate, perfectly situated between an on-rushing  Ziegler and a charging Sandy Leon.
     
The whole inning reeked of what former Red Sox manager Jimy Williams used to call "buzzard's luck,'' and typified how things have been going  for the team in the last three weeks.
     
Cut these agonizing losses in half, and the Red Sox are neck-and-neck with the Blue Jays for first place in the East. As it is, they remain, almost improbably, only two games out of first in the loss column.
     
But what of the cumulative psychological toll of these sort of defeats.
     
The Sox look and appear snake-bitten at times, expecting the worst.
     
For the season, they're a combined 25-27 in games determined by one or two runs, a dip below average. But again, it's the recent cumulative weight of the recent losses, coming, as they have, at the worst possible time: now.
     
Whether Ziegler wants to acknowledge it or not, those close-but-no-cigar losses have a tendency to get a team to doubting itself, to expecting the worst -- and often getting it -- when close games head into the late innings.
     
What the Red Sox need, more than anything is to go on a hot run  over a few weeks. In other words, they need to have a stretch exactly like that had from July 3 through July 21, when they went 11-3.
     
Know what happened immediately before that streak?
     
A 21-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
     
A blowout loss can be overcome. It's these endless close losses that are choking the Red Sox.

BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: Could Andrew Benintendi overtake Aaron Judge for Rookie of the Year?

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BASEBALL SHOW PODCAST: Could Andrew Benintendi overtake Aaron Judge for Rookie of the Year?

0:14 - With Aaron Judge slumping since the All-Star break and Andrew Benintendi on a hot streak, Lou Merloni, Evan Drellich, and Dan Shaughnessy discuss if Benintendi could overtake Judge for Rookie of the Year by the end of the season.

3:55 - Red Sox owner John Henry says that he would like to change the name of Yawkey Way. Should they change the name and if so, what should they rename the street?

9:12 - Merloni, Drellich, and Shaughnessy talk about Rafael Devers and how impressive he has been in his short time in the major leagues.

13:21 - Could David Price be out for the remainder of the season? Lou Merloni thinks it is possible now that Price has hit a snag in his rehab.

15:24 - Rick Porcello seems to have gained some confidence. The guys on The Baseball Show discuss where in the rotation Porcello might be pitching in the playoffs.