By Sean McAdam
CLEVELAND -- After going winless in their first four games, the Red Sox stressed the importance of keeping perspective and not overreacting to the results of the first week.
One more loss to the Indians, 8-4 on Wednesday, makes that ever more difficult.
Asked before Wednesday's game how he would respond to the fact that no team has ever won a World Series after losing its first four games, Terry Francona responded: "I guess I would say that we've got 158 left, so I don't think we're going to pack it in. I think it means that we've had four bad first days of the year."
Still, Francona acknowledged that a losing skid at the start of the season feels bigger than a similar streak in the middle of the season.
"You don't get asked questions about 0-4 teams not winning the World Series in August," said Francona. "You're aggravated, but you're not answering those questions. That's the one thing we talk about in our meetings: everything gets overblown and overanalyzed the first two weeks of the season.
"Saying that, I wish we were playing better. But you just have to deal with it."
Francona added that while a losing streak in the first week of April feels different than one in the middle of summer, the way he reacts to it should be the same.
"The whole idea is being consistent," he said. "Regardless of what my personality is, or that of the coaches, if we don't maintain some consistency, I think that's going to send up a red flag out in the clubhouse. I think that's the best thing we can do is be consistent.
"The players know we want to win. I know they want to win."
Hours before Wednesday night's game, with a tarp covering the infield due to light rain and regular batting practice wiped out, players converged in the clubhouse as they might before any game. Some played cards. Others listened to music or used iPads. A trio of pitchers -- John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon -- competed against one another in a golf video game.
"It's our responsibility to take the temperature," said Francona. "I think they care. I see good emotion in the dugout and guys trying. It just hasn't translated into a win yet. I don't want to downplay it; that's why we're here. But because it hasn't worked out doesn't mean they're not trying or the effort hasn't been good. We've had guys taking extra hitting and doing all kinds of stuff. It just hasn't translated out on the field yet."
Francona said he tries to avoid overreaching when the team struggles, fearing that that would send the wrong message to the players.
"You see a hitter struggling and they try to go 3-for-1," said Francona. "As a manager or coach, you can do the same thing. It's kind of dangerous. We just need to pay attention to what we're paying attention to. If you start thinking, 'Well, we can win two,' then you go out and give up a couple of runs and that frustration sets in.
"So how you combat is just by paying attention to what you're supposed to. Then, all of a sudden, you look up and you're kind of where you're supposed to be."
When Francona makes changes this early in the year to try to get his team out of a rut, he's careful not to make moves for the sake of making them. When Francona dropped Carl Crawford to seventh last Sunday in Texas, he had bench coach DeMarlo Hale talk to him the night before, so as to not have Crawford think he was being singled out.
This marks the second season in a row that the Sox have broken slowly from the gate, but Francona said it's hard to compare this start with last April.
In 2010, the Sox had an unhappy Mike Lowell on the bench, taking playing time from two established players -- Adrian Beltre at third and David Ortiz at first.
"It's a little different," he said, "because last year, we had a roster that was a little bit redundant. I was trying so hard to get guys in. I think I got in the way a little bit. I don't think that helped. We weren't playing real good to begin with, and with days off and bad weather, I think it just took us a little longer to get going.
"The first two weeks, it's always the same way: you're battling off-days, maybe weather. You're trying to keep guys sharp, but you want to get guys going. It's always the same every year."