The yellow uniforms were all well and good, and so was all the optimism that went with them.
But Friday night the Red Sox were smacked across the baby blues with a big ol’ dose of reality.
The buzz that had been building leading up to the Sox’ showdown with the Yankees began with the Fenway Park sound system on the fritz. By the time it was restored, the only truly appropriate audio offering would have a sad trombone. Three runs in both the first and third innings against Nathan Eovaldi - along with 12 Red Sox batters coming to the plate before notching a hit against Gerrit Cole - ruined the party before it could really get started.
Put it this way: The “Yankees suck!” chant that was put on display with the Red Sox trailing 7-0 in the fifth inning didn’t really catch the spirit of the thing.
It all wasn’t the end of the world. Far from it. The Sox still head into Saturday one game up on a Yankees team that finishes the season with series against Toronto and Tampa while Alex Cora’s team will be basking in completing its regular-season schedule in Baltimore and Washington D.C. And the Blue Jays lost yet again.
But the defeat at the hands of New York didn’t allow Boston to completely shake its insecurities.
While the roster has settled in, along with the performances from all the players, the Red Sox are still mired in the mud when it comes to proving they can beat these versions of the teams that potentially await on Oct. 5.
Since Aug. 1 …
The Red Sox are 1-3 against the ultra-talented Blue Jays, carrying a run differential of minus-9.
They are 4-7 vs. the first-place Rays, having scored eight fewer runs during that span.
And since Red Sox team president Sam Kennedy went on the Greg Hill Show and responded to New York’s trade deadline by saying, “They had to be active because I think they are 3-10 against us,” Kennedy’s crew has lost four straight to the Yanks, with the 8-3 series-opening defeat serving as the latest Yankees salvo.
Perhaps it is just one game. One game where the pitcher the Red Sox were likely ready to lean on in the Wild Card game, Eovaldi, simply had an off night. A singular instance that reminded us all that the uniform does not, indeed, make the men.
But until the Red Sox can start proving otherwise, it wasn’t just one game.
The magic that was bottled thanks to a week of the Orioles and Mets - ("They could have beaten those teams in their underwear," mused one press box scribe Friday night) - was extinguished almost immediately thanks to that early Yankees onslaught.
And while there were glimpses of the rejuvenated Red Sox, such as Rafael Devers' 10th three-run homer of the season, they were negated at virtually every turn. Martin Perez gives back a run right after Devers' sixth-inning blast. Bobby Dalbec fans on three pitches while pinch-hitting for Kyle Schwarber with two on and two out in the seventh.
After the game, Cora offered a pertinent point when it came to Eovaldi's 2 2/3-inning, seven-run downturn. "The good ones, they have bad ones," said the manager, with Cole's previous stinker against Cleveland fresh in everyone's mind. True. But the timing here is getting delicate.
The Red Sox get another chance Saturday to change yet another September narrative while wrestling away any and all momentum from the Yankees.
If Saturday comes and goes with yet another Yankees win, however, that's when this conversation will have officially gained some very untimely (and uncomfortable) momentum for these Red Sox.
"I want to sleep in my bed the night before if we get there," said Cora of winning the top Wild Card spot. "That’s always good. It’s home, you've got the last at-bat. But we’re not there yet, we know where we’re at right now. We’ve got to show up tomorrow and put up a good game. We cannot get ahead of ourselves talking about playoffs. Right now we are in a fight with a lot of teams around us and tomorrow we have to come out here and play a good game."