If it's not one thing with the Red Sox, it's another.
If it's not the starting pitching, then it's been the offense. When they're not allowing too many runs, they're scoring too few.
On Sunday, as if demonstrating their ability to adapt, they unearned another way to lose: in the late innings, and just for good measure, as painfully as possible.
In an epic back-and-forth game with the Yankees, the Red Sox three times had taken the lead and three times had given it back. When Rafeal Devers homered deep into the vast expanse of empty right field bleachers in the bottom of the seventh, they were six outs away from averting a sweep and leaving New York with at least a semblance of their dignity intact.
Matt Barnes got two quick outs in the bottom of the eighth, but in bit of foreboding, walked No. 9 hitter Mike Tauchman. A stolen base and a single to right by D.J. LeMahieu later, the game was tied. But not for long. Aaron Judge, who likely wouldn't miss a very good pitch right now, exploded against a particularly bad one -- a hanging curveball, up-and-in -- and hit it 468 feet to put the Yankees ahead for good, 9-7.
468 feet for the lead.
BEAST MODE. pic.twitter.com/N31sbS6t9l
— MLB (@MLB) August 3, 2020
"Any time you lose a game like this, it's tough,'' lamented Ron Roenicke.
That's especially true, because there were, truth be told, a lot of good that happened for the Sox. They got The Xander Bogaerts 2020 Coming Out Party, with four hits including two homers. They got the first homer of the season from Devers, to go along with his two sparkling defensive gems at third base.
And for all their difficulty in protecting leads all night, the Sox showed an admirable resiliency. On three separate occasions after the Yankees had tied the game or gone ahead, the Sox came back every time.
The seven runs represented their biggest output since Opening Night. Put another way, the seven-run outburst was more than they had scored in their three previous losses combined.
Bogaerts noted that the energy level before Sunday's series finale was "different. I don't know why, but it was just different.''
That was evident with the way the lineup responded. For a change, they demonstrated the ability to come up with the big hit (3-for-7 with runners in scoring position) and a penchant for counter-punching. When the Yankees tied the score or pulled ahead, the Red Sox re-took the lead the following inning once and two innings later on two other occasions.
And there was this: for the first time in 10 games, the Red Sox scored in the first inning, and never mind that edge was erased in the bottom of the second. For a change, they weren't playing catch-up right from the start.
It was, in short, the kind of game you expected you'd see fairly regularly from them this season, a game in which the pitching wasn't good, but the offense covered that failure up. And with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, this seemed to be one those games.
The Sox seemed poised to tag-team their high leverage duo of Barnes and Brandon Workman to secure this one. But the Yankees collectively and Judge, in particular, had other ideas.
Unlike the two wins earlier in the week against the Mets, when the bullpen wobbled, but improbably, didn't completely fall down, Barnes couldn't close things out in the eighth.
It felt as though the win had been cruelly snapped from their grasp. These sorts of late-inning losses always sting, but most times, they can be written off and quickly forgotten. Every team is going to have them.
But coming as it did just when the Red Sox thought they were on the verge of salvaging something makes it that much more demoralizing. A win Sunday night and the Red Sox could take some satisfaction in going 3-2 in their five-game stay in New York.
Instead, the losing streak extends and the doubts surface. And suddenly, the offensive fireworks, instead of representing a potential jumping-off point feels somehow empty.
"We've got an off-day (Monday),'' said Barnes, fumbling for a positive, "then come in Tuesday against Tampa and get back on the horse. That's the only way to do it. We'll take tonight, let it sink in, figure out what's going on. But this is a good team. Good teams struggle from time-to-time. We can hop back out there on Tuesday and start a winning streak and start a winning streak and rip off eight out of 10.''
That's indeed possible. How likely it is the subject of some debate.