BOSTON -- Tonight, A-Rod.
But how soon before they begin to turn on their own?
The Red Sox haven't been inspiring much confidence of late, and Friday night's 10-3 loss to the Yankees won't help matters. A crowd of 38,143, the biggest of the season, lustily booed Alex Rodriguez's every move. But by the end of the night, there were groans aplenty for the performance of the hometown nine, who lost for the sixth time in the past eight games.
With Tampa Bay winning in walk-off fashion again Friday night, Boston's lead is back down to a game in the AL East, the closest the Rays have been since Boston's lead shrank to a half-game on Aug. 5, the night the Sox were shut out in Houston at the start of their just-completed 10-game trip. The Sox are now 14-13, a game over .500, since the All-Star break, and trying to keep their heads above water through their most arduous stretch of the season -- a 19-game odyssey that is taking the Soggy Bottom Boys through three time zones, two countries, two leagues and five cities outside of their home area code, where this three-game set against the Bombers represents their only stop at home in a three-week span. It hasn't been pretty, and it could get worse before it gets better.
"We're not going to make wholesale changes," Sox manager John Farrell said after a night in which the Yankees banged out 15 hits, including home runs by pinstriped newcomer Mark Reynolds and Alfonso Soriano, the reincarnated Bomber, that accounted for five runs in the first three innings.
"We have to continue with our approach," Farrell said. "That's been proven successful over the long run. We've got to stay with our day-to-day approach."
The Sox trailed 6-0 after three innings, Felix Doubront making hash of his reputation as a Yankee-killer. Reynolds, meanwhile, burnished his as a Sox-killer, hitting a two-run home run in the second in his first at-bat as a Yankee. Reynolds hit six homers against the Sox last season while playing for the Orioles, three at Fenway.
The Sox had three hits, all singles, through six innings against Andy Pettitte, who cruised to his 20th career win against the Sox, most of any active pitcher, allowing three runs, all unearned, before departing with two on and two out in the seventh.
Sox shortstop Stephen Drew misplayed a double-play ground ball in the third just before Soriano launched a three-run home run, his latest blow in a hot streak of historic proportions. In his past four games, Soriano is 13-for-18 (.727) with five home runs, 18 RBIs and nine runs. He is one of six players all time to drive in 18 runs in four games, the 18 RBIs more than any Sox player has driven in during the 27 games the Sox have played since the All-Star break (David Ortiz leads with 16). More home runs, too.
"All those haters who have been talking all that [expletive] about him, they can [expletive]," Ortiz said of his fellow Dominican.
Jonny Gomes was picked off first with the Sox trailing 7-1 in the fourth.
Ortiz was out trying to stretch a single into a double with the Sox trailing 7-2 in the seventh.
Mike Carp was ejected after being called out on strikes to end the seventh, after thinking reliever Shawn Kelly had bounced a pitch off his foot. The umpires huddled and decided otherwise (replays showed dust kicking up in front of Carp's shoe, suggesting they got it right), and the normally low-key Carp overheated when plate umpire Bill Welke rung him up on a full-count pitch, hurling his bat and helmet to the ground.
"We weren't sharp tonight," Farrell said. "Set the tone right out of the gate with some mislocated pitches. ... Yeah, this wasn't one of our sharper efforts."
And then, just to make sure everyone left good and unhappy, Rodriguez speared an Ortiz line drive in the eighth and turned it into a rally-killing double play. He also lined a single in the ninth, his second hit of the night and one of four line drives he hit in five at-bats, and was on the back end of a double steal with Soriano, which might have been the oldest in baseball history (A-Rod is 38, Soriano 37).
While the Yankees were tacking on three more runs in the ninth, the scoreboard showed another walk-off win by the Rays.
"We just aren't playing well," Ortiz said. "Got to win some games. Guess it's one of those funks you get into, I guess we need to get out of it."
Through it all, whether after a walk-off or during a three-game losing streak like this one, which matches Boston's longest of the season, Farrell has rarely deviated more than a tick or two on the emotional scale. Friday was no exception. He praised the Yankees -- "I don't think anyone has written them off by any means" -- but dismissed any suggestion that the team's recent play is grounds for concern.
"This is somewhat reminiscent of the stretch in early May that we went through where we created a number of opportunities that we didn't cash in on," he said. "I kind of look at this in the same vein. ... The biggest thing is that we've got to continue to create the opportunities. At some point, that will turn.
"I'm very confident in our team. We've got a good team."
Dustin Pedroia, who had two more hits Friday after collecting his first three-hit game since June 28 the night before in Toronto, was of similar mind.
"We're just trying to win some games," he said, dismissing the suggestion that the team is off-kilter. "They swung the bats well tonight; tomorrow, we get after it."