Red Sox

McAdam: Consecutive losses represent first hiccup in Red Sox’ season

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(Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)

OAKLAND -- It says everything about the 2018 Red Sox' season to date that the following question -- or some approximation of it -- was being directed at the players and manager Alex Cora yesterday afternoon in the wake of their 4-1 setback to the plucky Oakland A's.

"Do you think it will be a good test to see how you handle this?''

"This,'' in this case, means the team's first losing streak.

Which now stands at two games.

Two

There are no alarms going off yet, or calls for lineup changes. But the Red Sox had gone more than three weeks without losing consecutive games. Heck, they hadn't even lost two games in the same week until they were no-hit Saturday night and then limited to a solo run Sunday.

That resulted in their first series loss of the year, too. Look out below.

Necessary perspective aside, most teams would dearly love to be in a position where two consecutive losses constitute the first crisis of a season, or, at the very least, the first test. And yet, here we are.

It had all been so easy for the Red Sox through the first 19 games. This road trip began with a mix of offensive fireworks (27 runs and 11 homers in three games in Anaheim) and stellar starting pitching (three runs allowed across three games) and when the Red Sox followed that up Friday by pasting the A's with seven unanswered runs, well, you could be forgiven for thinking that they had deliberately fallen behind 3-0 just to make things interesting for themselves.

But then came Sean Manaea on Saturday and the first shutout of the season. From an offensive standpoint, Sunday represented only a marginal upgrade. When the Sox eventually got around to scoring their only run of the afternoon in the seventh, it snapped a scoreless streak that had managed to reach 18 innings.

Even Sunday's loss should carry with it an asterisk since Cora rested three regulars (Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Nunez) with the idea of providing two-straight days of rest for the trio since Monday is an off-day on the schedule.

But a loss is a loss, and now the Red Sox know what it's like to be mortal, to be human after all.

The trick will be to make sure that the losing streak doesn't grow.

"With our pitching staff,'' said Cora, "we feel (we won't have long streaks). Offensively, we feel capable of scoring runs every night. But this is going to happen -- they're not going to score seven or eight runs a night. But with the pitching staff that we have, they'll always give us a chance to win the game.''

It nearly happened Sunday. Had Christian Vazquez found a way to reach base in the top of the ninth, pinch-hitter Mookie Betts was waiting on deck and would have represented the tying run. With a rested bullpen well-situated for extra innings, it wouldn't have taken much.

It didn't happen.

"That's the way it goes sometimes,'' shrugged first baseman Mitch Moreland.

Moreland couldn't suppress a laugh when the question was posed about how the Red Sox will handle this mini-setback.

"That's funny,'' he said, chuckling in appreciation. "We play 162 games in a season, so I think we'll be alright.''

Here's the math: the Red Sox are almost certainly going to lose another 60 or so times, at minimum. There will be streaks far worse than this one, extended periods where they neither hit nor pitch well enough to roll over teams. There will be frustration, injuries, slumps, and second-guessing. Just because the aforementioned haven't happened yet doesn't mean they won't.

Monday's off-day will provide some time for either reflection or relaxation. On Tuesday, it's back to work against the surprising Blue Jays, who sit in second place in the American League East.

You can't win 'em all, even if the Red Sox' play in recent weeks suggested that might not be such an outlandish concept.

This is no time to panic.

This is Boston.

That can wait until Wednesday, at least