By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Remember, if you can, a date that came a long, long time ago. A distant past. A piece of ancient history.
We're talking about July 27, 2019.
While that day may technically have been only nine days ago, it might as well have been a century ago, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.
It was on that date that the Red Sox, fresh off a second consecutive thumping of the Yankees, were sitting pretty in playoff position, a half-game up on the fading Rays. An optimist's optimist could even draw out a path for the Red Sox to become relevant in the AL East race, too.
Things were looking up.
Since then, you surely know what's happened. An ugly loss to the Yankees on Sunday night baseball, followed by a sweep at the hands of the visiting Rays, followed by an utterly embarrassing four-game sweep in the Bronx. It's an eight-game losing streak for the Red Sox, who now are obviously completely out of the division race (they're a cool 14.5) games back) and are also free falling in the chase for a wild-card spot. After that dreadful week of baseball, they're now 6.5 games behind the Rays for that second-wild card spot, with the A's sitting between Boston and Tampa in the standings, too.
Not that perspective is needed for such an atrocious week. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that only one team -- the Kansas City Royals, at 1-9 -- across all of Major League Baseball has had a worse performance over the last 10 games.
The fact that this flop came at a spot in the schedule that was designed to define their entire season, suffice it to say that the Red Sox have come completely undone.
The reasons are numerous, but the first finger can be pointed at the starting rotation.
Chris Sale's last two starts have come against the Yankees. He's 0-2 with a 14.00 ERA. He couldn't make it out of the fourth inning on Saturday.
David Price continued his own personal pitching debacle, posting a 14.14 ERA in his two outings over the past week. He didn't take the loss after allowing four runs in 4.1 innings against the Rays, but he couldn't avoid that fate after he surrendered seven earned runs in just 2.2 innings on Sunday night.
Price is now 0-3 with an 8.59 ERA in his last five starts.
Rick Porcello lost his lone start during the skid, allowing six runs over 5.2 innings to the Rays, and smashing a pair of dugout TV monitors in the process.
Add in Brian Johnson's ineffective outing on Saturday (8 hits, 3 runs in 3 IP), Eduardo Rodriguez's grind on Friday (4 earned runs in 6.2 IP), Andrew Cashner getting rocked on Thursday (6 ER in 5.2 IP), and the Red Sox' starters have failed to put the team in position to win just about every night.
Combined, over the past eight games, Red Sox starters have a 10.70 ERA. They've lasted 4.2 innings per start, on average.
That's obviously not the recipe to success.
It's not the only issue, to be sure. Josh Taylor and Matt Barnes worked to lose Saturday night's game, just as Taylor and Colton Brewer worked in concert to blow a lead against Tampa on Tuesday. Xander Bogaerts, despite a career-best season, has gone cold, as he went 0-for-New York, hitless in 15 at-bats over the weekend. Mookie Betts is hitting just .250 with a .681 OPS during the losing streak, and Rafael Devers is on a 2-for-21 run at the plate over his last five games.
The lack of any addition at the trade deadline surely didn't help matters, but the overriding message from Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was pretty clear: These Red Sox should be good enough to dig themselves out of their hole and begin to play better baseball. Since then, they've gone 0-6, getting outscored 43-21.
"Overall," manager Alex Cora said after Sunday night's loss, "a horrible week."
That much was evident, and -- barring a near-miracle -- when the regular season comes to an end on Sept. 29, it will be this past week that will be reflected on as the exact moment that the unraveling became official and complete. The baseball season may be 162 games long, but the Red Sox managed to remove most of its meaning in the span of just eight days.
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