For the last few weeks, the play of the Bruins has bought the Red Sox some cover, somewhat obscuring the fact that the defending champions can't get out of their own way.
On Wednesday night, win or lose in Game 7, the Bruins' season will end. A victory will result in yet another parade in Boston later this week and extend the distraction for another few days, but after that, there will be no place to hide from the demanding fans.
After that, the Sox will be on their own. And good luck with that. That's far from an enviable position.
For that matter, neither is third place in the American League East, a full eight games back of the division's twin frontrunners, New York and Tampa Bay.
After a sloppy 9-5 loss to the Texas Rangers Tuesday night, the Sox sit at .500, a study in mediocrity. They have no trouble rolling the many lousy teams the American League, but are no match for anyone with a winning record, as their record 14-23 against such clubs clearly indicates.
Tuesday night saw the Red Sox:
- Issue a total of eight walks, with five of the hitters who walked eventually coming around to score.
- Dropping the most routine of popups (Rafael Devers) in the middle of the infield.
- Failing to recognize that a ball came back into the field of play as the Rangers' Hunter Pence motored around the bases for an inside-the-park home run (Brock Holt).
- Unable to be competitive in games in which a spot starter works. Rookie Darwinzon Hernandez was tagged for four runs (three earned) in 3.1 innings. In the last four such games, fill-in starters have allowed 19 earned runs in just 12.1 innings.
Is this any way to defend a title?
"We're not good right now,'' said Alex Cora flatly. "We're playing .500 baseball. We've to pitch better, we've got to put up better at-bats. We've just got to be better. That's the bottom line. I've been saying that all season long. We've been very inconsistent at what we do. We absolutely have to be better than this if we want to be in the hunt.
"It's not good baseball right now, to be honest with you. It's not fun. We know we can be better; we know that.''
By any measure, the Red Sox are thoroughly average. While they're two games over .500 away from home, they're now two games under at Fenway, a record so disappointing as to be unthinkable.
Fenway used to offer the Red Sox a distinct home field advantage, but not this season, when teams routinely come in and dominate. Unless the Sox can find a way to win the next two games and gain a split with the Rangers, they'll fall to 2-5-4 at home. Nearly halfway through the schedule, the Sox have won exactly two home series.
For comparison's sake, last year they had won three home series by April 15 - just one more measuring stick to serve as conclusive proof that 2019 is not at all like 2018.
"Very, very surprised,'' acknowledged Cora of his team's struggles at home. "This is a place where it's tough for the opposition to come here and play, but it seems like this year, we haven't been good since Day 1.''
For the last month, the Sox have spun their wheels. When they won four straight on the road and returned home for a huge series with the Rays, there was hope that finally, they were ready to make their move. Instead, they lost three-of-four to the Rays in a series that came to symbolize everything that's gone wrong with their season: poor situational hitting; inconsistent starting pitching; and surprisingly sloppy play in the field and on the bases.
"We keep thinking, 'OK, we're going to get out of this, we're going to get out of this,'" said Brock Holt. "We just haven't yet. We haven't played well, especially at home. We need to pick it up and do a better job. You can see it -- I think guys are frustrated. We try not to be, but games like tonight, it's embarrassing.
"We're not playing well. We're not playing up to our capabilities. That's the frustrating part, because we know we're good. We just clicked, we haven't put it together and that's something that we need to get going. We have talent in this clubhouse. We feel like we're a good team. We just haven't been that good team yet.''
The clock is ticking. After Wednesday night, they're on their own, the only game left in town.
After that, without another team to distract them, people will notice. If, that is, they still care to notice at all.