The Red Sox could have said the same thing in 2009, when they lost twice in the best-of-five division round in Anaheim, then returned home to be swept by the Angels. It happened again last fall against the Cleveland Indians: two road losses, then a season-ending dud at Fenway.
If the Red Sox lose on Sunday, they will have finished eight of their last nine seasons without a single playoff victory. The shining exception, of course, was 2013, when they won the World Series. Just two players from this postseason roster — Pedroia and shortstop Xander Bogaerts — were also on that one.
“I don’t think, roster-wise, we probably had the best team going into that postseason,” Bogaerts said. “I know a lot of people didn’t pick us, but in the end, we did it. We did it as a team.”
He added that those Red Sox faced a two-games-to-one World Series deficit in St. Louis but rallied to win the next three.
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“That was one of the hardest things to overcome, and we did it,” Bogaerts said. “It’s nothing that big, like that time.”
So much has changed in just four years, especially with Boston’s offense. Those Red Sox led the majors in on-base plus slugging percentage. These Red Sox finished 22nd in O.P.S., at .736, far below even the sad and broken Mets. The nine other playoff teams held the top nine spots in that statistic.
The old Boston standby David Ortiz now yuks it up with A-Rod on Fox’s postseason studio show. Their Red Sox’ cleanup man, Betts, gamely presses on with a wrist that recently needed a cortisone shot. It bothered Betts when he batted in the eighth inning on Friday, and he left for a defensive replacement.
“Everything will be all right,” he said, referring to the wrist, not the team’s chances. Those hinge largely on Doug Fister, the journeyman right-hander who lost to the Astros last Friday. Fister has a strong playoff track record, but his earned run average was 4.88 this season. The Red Sox plucked him off the roster of the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees, an Angels affiliate, in June.
They spent far more for their other starters. They traded gems from their farm system in deals for Sale and Pomeranz. In 2014, they traded the October stalwart Jon Lester to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes, then flipped Cespedes to Detroit for Rick Porcello. They signed David Price in free agency for seven years and $217 million.
So where do they stand now? Sale and Pomeranz — neither of whom had ever started in the playoffs before — combined to allow 11 runs and 14 hits in seven innings against the Astros. Price and Porcello have pitched in relief, Price because elbow trouble limits his workload, and Porcello because his rough season (11-17, 4.65) has knocked him from the rotation’s top three.
These games have gone so miserably that Craig Kimbrel, the All-Star closer who strikes out nearly half of all hitters, was reduced to mop-up duty on Friday, just to stay sharp. He held the deficit at seven with a scoreless eighth inning.
The Red Sox scored in the top of the ninth, but thankfully, nobody cited that as a show of character, or a willingness to fight to the end. It would have rung hollow, anyway, because the facts are clear: The Red Sox have had a nice season, with another A.L. East title. But their hitters cannot keep up with the Astros, and their pitchers cannot stop them.
“Every single game, 1 through 9, everybody can do damage, everybody can go deep,” said Houston’s Carlos Correa, whose first-inning homer started the party on Friday. “There’s no holes in our lineup.”
And there are just too many holes in the Red Sox.