The Red Sox acted decisively Monday, firing pitching coach Bob McClure and scheduling left fielder Carl Crawford for season-ending elbow surgery.
When they gathered at Fenway Park Tuesday to face the Los Angeles Angels, manager Bobby Valentine unveiled a lineup that had Jacoby Ellsbury batting third for the first time in his career.
The hope, Valentine said, was to get him to swing more aggressively at pitches.
Pedro Ciriaco, a castoff from the Pirates who has emerged as a viable player, batted leadoff, and Daniel Nava was activated off the disabled list to be the designated hitter.
All the well-intentioned changes did not accomplish much as the Angels beat the Sox, 5-3, before an announced crowd of 37,794 at Fenway Park.
The Sox have lost nine of their last 13 games and are an unimaginable 29-35 at home.
The game was the first of six the Sox will play against the Angels over a 10-day span. Los Angeles has fallen into third place in the American League West but started the day only four games out in the wild card race.
The Angels played like a team with something on the line, manager Mike Scioscia using four relievers to get the final eight outs. Starter Ervin Santana (7-10) was the winner, with Ernesto Frieri picking up his 15th save.
The Angels snapped a four-game losing streak. They are only 15-22 since the All-Star break.
Aaron Cook started the game for Boston in impressive fashion, striking out 20-year-old Most Valuable Player candidate Mike Trout with a slider. Cook then worked around a two-out double off the wall in left-center by Albert Pujols.
Trout got Cook in the third inning with a single to center. Because Trout came into the game with 39 stolen bases, Cook paid close attention to him at first. But a pickoff throw went wild and Trout took second.
Trout then scored his 97th run of the season (in 100 games) when Pujols singled to center.
The Angels scored twice more in the fourth inning as they had five singles off Cook.
Consecutive singles by Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Erick Aybar, Chris Ianetta, and Trout accounted for the two runs. Aybar and Ianetta had RBIs.
The inning might have been worse for Cook but Aybar was caught in a rundown after his hit and was tagged out.
Cook returned to the mound for the fifth inning trailing, 3-0. Kendry Morales had a one-out single before Cook left a 91-m.p.h. sinker high in the strike zone to Mark Trumbo.
The big left fielder hammered it over everything in left field for his 30th home run of the season.
Cook finished the inning, but that was the end of his night. He struck out a season-best four allowed a season-worst 11 hits.
The rough night raised his earned run average to 4.79. Every Los Angeles starter except Torii Hunter had at least one hit off Cook.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched seven shutout innings in a rehabilitation start for Triple A Pawtucket against Rochester, could bump Cook out of the rotation.
Matsuzaka allowed one hit, walked four, and struck out seven. He started the eighth inning but came out after issuing two walks. Matsuzaka threw 102 pitches and would appear ready to rejoin the Sox. He has been on the disabled list since July 3 with a strained neck muscle.
Santana came into the game with a lofty 5.59 ERA. But he had a four-hit shutout going for five innings, as the Red Sox were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
Santana got the first two outs of the sixth inning before Cody Ross drew a walk. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then hit a high fastball to right field. Torii Hunter went back on the ball but misjudged it and it fell just over the short wall for Saltalamacchia’s 21st home run.
Santana got the first out of the seventh inning and was taken out of the game after throwing 100 pitches. He allowed two runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Righthander Jordan Walden came on and allowed a double to left by Scott Podsednik, who started in left field in place of Carl Crawford.
Podsednik advanced to third on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch. Dustin Pedroia singled to extend the inning before Jacoby Ellsbury, hitting third for the first time in his career, lined out to right.