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Hitting the pause button

Sox’ run stymied by two-game slip

Frustration shows on Carl Crawford’s face after lining out with two aboard in the sixth inning. Frustration shows on Carl Crawford’s face after lining out with two aboard in the sixth inning. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 31, 2011

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The Red Sox seem to have pushed the pause button.

After a tremendous run, the last two games the team appears to have taken a collective deep breath.

Tigers ace Justin Verlander had a lot to do with it, with his 3-0 win over the Red Sox in the second game of a day-night doubleheader Sunday night in Detroit.

And last night the Sox seemed to be feeling the effects of that doubleheader. They didn’t get back to Fenway Park until 3 a.m yesterday; the White Sox were eating steak dinners at Boston’s finest restaurants while the Sox were playing Game 2. And it showed in a 7-3 defeat to Chicago.

Former Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy allowed three runs over seven innings and outdueled Jon Lester.

The Red Sox bats, which entered leading the majors in just about every category, were subdued. Carl Crawford, who had been a huge part of Boston’s recent run, fizzled in Detroit and went 0 for 4 last night and is in an 0-for-11 tailspin.

Until Lester’s stinker last night, the starters had allowed three runs or fewer in nine straight games. Lester struggled from the start and allowed eight hits and seven runs over 5 2/3 innings and fell to 7-2. He threw 127 pitches, which shouldn’t affect his next start, because with the team having offdays on Thursday and Monday, Lester won’t pitch again until Tuesday in New York.

Lester had entered the game tied for the major league lead in wins, but he never seemed to get his command in order, walking four and hitting two.

“I stunk, there’s no other way to put it,’’ said Lester. “I’ve got to do a better job keeping us in that game. I just flat-out didn’t get it done.’’

Lester is the ace of the staff and thus gets a lot more rope when he’s struggling. He and Peavy battled until the sixth when the lefty couldn’t maintain a 3-3 tie and surrendered a bases-loaded, two-run bloop double to Alexei Ramirez. Dan Wheeler, who relieved Lester, allowed two more runs on Carlos Quentin’s single up the middle to give the White Sox an insurmountable four-run lead.

Now the tough part.

When will the Red Sox come out of their pause?

What they’d like to resume is what they’ve experienced in the month of May — a 19-9 record — a complete turnaround from early in the season.

They’d like to resume with a good homestand, similar to the 5-2 trip they just finished. Having established themselves on the road, going 14-6 following an 0-7 start, they must establish they can be a dominating home team. After last night’s loss, the Red Sox are 16-11 at Fenway, but their guests, the White Sox, felt far more comfortable at their home than they did.

All teams have to regroup at various stages of a long season.

The Sox regrouped two weeks ago when they added Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield as their back-end starters, replacing the injured John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Aceves and Wakefield, who will pitch the next two nights, have provided four good starts, three quality ones. After Lester didn’t provide the spark he normally gives the team last night, it’s now up to Aceves to give Boston another boost.

Aceves and Wakefield seem to be battling for who remains in the rotation when Lackey returns, more than likely after his rehab start in Pawtucket tonight. All signs point to Wakefield staying in the rotation because he’s a starter and Aceves is more adaptable to the bullpen, but the performances of both the next two nights surely will factor in the decision.

Over the next few days there’ll be an influx of old faces such as Lackey and Bobby Jenks returning to the 25-man roster. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes it can be disruptive, especially when the team has been performing well, which this one has.

The Sox also are dealing with a minor shoulder injury to Jed Lowrie after he collided with Crawford Sunday in the outfield. Lowrie got last night off and was replaced by Drew Sutton, who was very good in Cleveland, but average in Detroit and in his first game in Boston.

The Sox need Adrian Gonzalez to continue his torrid month (31 RBIs). He was quieted somewhat in Detroit, when he went 3 for 16, but last night he homered and singled in four at-bats, a sign he may be restarting.

Good teams limit long losing streaks, such as the 2-10 start that nearly ruined the Red Sox’ summer.

They have been a May juggernaut, showing baseball they are serious about winning the American League pennant and the World Series.

And now, a pause, and a question . . . when will they resume?

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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