ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Last season, the Red Sox often couldn't collect a big base hit when they needed it most. This week, that problem has returned in a big way.
The Sox managed just three hits Thursday night in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
For the three-game series, the Sox scored a total of seven runs -- just six of them earned. More tellingly, in dropping two of three to the Rays, the Sox were just 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position - a true season-long issue in 2014. They're 4-for-51 with RISP over the last seven games.
"We got shut down tonight - (give) credit to their guys,'' acknowledged John Farrell. "(The Rays pitchers) didn't fall behind in the count, they stayed even for the most part. We had a couple of opportunities.''
In the fifth, the Sox got a two-out opposite-field single from Xander Bogaerts and a walk by Sandy Leon, but Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier made a sprawling catch on a blooper by Mookie Betts that, with two outs and the runners going, might have saved two runs.
Another chance came in the seventh, when the same scenario -- a two-out single followed by a walk -- put two on for pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez. But Ramirez looked at a slider for strike three and the threat ended.
"I think guys are trying to do their job,'' said Farrell. "I don't see guys expanding the strike zone to the point where they're chasing pitches out of the zone. We're hitting into a shift at times, we're not getting a base hit to fall. Mookie looks like he had a tweener, but Kiermaier makes a heck of a diving catch to preserve a couple of runs.
Boston Red Sox
"We're not catching any breaks right now offensively.''
Still, hitting coach Chili Davis is convinced the team's fortunes will change. For now, he detects some of his hitters are pressing some, especially with runner in scoring position.
"I think the nature of good hitters is, when guys are out there to be driven in, they tend to drive them in,'' said Davis. "Maybe we sometimes expand our zones, but who doesn't do that? RBI guys, guys who drive in runs, do that. That's why they drive in runs.
"Can we improve our approach? Yeah. I think guys are working at that. Consistent? It's 15-16 guys into the season. I've got an offense here, they're not going to quit. They're going to keep getting better. And when it all comes together and they all jell, then you'll see the potential of this offense.''