Red Sox

‘I believe we’re underperforming’: Scuffling Red Sox offense falls short against Pirates

"We don’t hit too many home runs."

Red Sox
Bobby Dalbec of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after scoring on a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After the Red Sox fell to the Pirates 8-2 on Thursday, a reporter noted to manager Alex Cora that the team can’t really afford to lose games against bad teams with so many games against good teams remaining.

Cora tried to make the best of it.

“I mean, we’re not going to win every game either, you know?” Cora said, shrugging. “It’s going to happen, and it’s disappointing. We hate losing, but we took two out of three. Now we got Baltimore, we got Tampa and Toronto. Now you got to win series. To gain ground, these are the teams that are ahead of us. We did a good job here. Obviously, today wasn’t great, but you see the positive — two out of three.

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“Now, you’ve got to get ready for Baltimore. You win the series, you win the next one, you’re in a good place. So it’s time to go. We’re playing good baseball. Today, it wasn’t great, but overall, the last two have been solid.”

The Red Sox had won four of their last five prior to Thursday, but they allowed eight runs to the Pirates. Starter Josh Winckowski — who surrendered six — told reporters he felt bad for knocking the Red Sox “off the rails.”

“Overall though, the bats have been really solid,” Winckowski said.

The Red Sox, however, are actually down to 19th in runs scored over the last seven days, and they couldn’t break through against Pirates starter JT Brubaker, who pitched seven innings. Brubaker allowed six hard-hit balls, but struck out seven batters, and the Red Sox whiffed 13 times in 40 swings (33 percent).

“We didn’t swing at strikes, that’s the bottom line,” Cora told reporters. “They used their breaking stuff the whole series, and it was going to happen today, again. And [Brubaker] did a good job using it, and then against lefties, it was a different story. He had the two-seamer running in, with two strikes. It was a tough one. Usually, back in the day, it was front hip, now it’s front shoulder or something. It’s up in the zone, but he had good stuff. We didn’t do much today.”

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Maybe most tellingly, the Red Sox are 25th in home runs over the last 30 days league-wide, leaving little room for error.

“The offense is just stuck right now,” J.D. Martinez said. “We’re really not going forward. This is a potent lineup with three guys in the middle of the order [Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts] that really drive the ball and really kind of aren’t doing that right now. It’s kind of just making it one of those offenses that is station to station right now.

“As an offense, I believe we’re underperforming.”

Cora noted that the Red Sox need to do things like hit the ball in the gap, control the strike zone and run the bases well to make up the difference without homers.

“We’ve played 119 games,” Cora said. “The numbers are the numbers. There’s 43 more games in the season. We’ve got to find ways to score runs, and I don’t think it’s going to be through the home run.”

The Red Sox are now five games behind the Blue Jays for the final wild-card slot with three teams in between. Of the Red Sox’s last 43 games of the season, 34 are against teams who currently lead them in the wild-card chase.

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Cora will now try to get his team back on track with a crucial series against the Orioles looming.

“It’s gonna happen,” Cora told reporters, referencing Thursday’s loss. “We’re better than this.”

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