Papi stays positive after horrific homestand


BOSTON -- Greeting the media at his locker while looking his most dapper -- teal suit, midnight blue shirt, teal skinny tie -- David Ortiz refused to play the part of the disconsolate slugger after the Red Sox's seventh straight loss Thursday, a 7-2 defeat to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Despite going 0-for-his last 17 following a red-hot six-game road trip when he was 13-for-25 with five homers, Ortiz remarked Thursday, "You don't even think about it, you just keep on swinging," then flashed his trademark grin and winked, adding, "I'll get hot, trust me."

So then, he was asked, what's the attitude this team needs to have in the clubhouse?

"I don't know, but I can tell you about mine," he said. "I'm going to come in here tomorrow and kick some ass."

If only the Red Sox could have gotten that kind of jolt on the field, perhaps they would have averted the disaster of a historically futile six-game homestand.

For only the second time in franchise history, the Red Sox were swept in a homestand lasting six games or longer, the other time coming in July 1994 in the last of Butch Hobson's three disappointing seasons as manager. Overall, they've lost seven straight for the first time since 2012, the bitter last days of the Bobby Valentine disaster, when they dropped their final eight games and 12 of their last 13.

In Thursday's finale of a three-game series with Toronto, the Sox sent the ace of their staff, Jon Lester, out to oppose Mark Buehrle. The result was less than flattering.

For Lester, this was about as bad a beginning as one could have without getting a quick hook. His sixth pitch of the day, a 94 mph sinker, was launched over the Green Monster by Melky Cabrera. His seventh, a 92 mph four-seamer, was sent ricocheting off one of the light fixtures on the Monster by Jose Bautista, his 12th dinger of the season.

It only got worse from there, as Lester gave up five more runs in the second before settling down for a good third inning, when he worked his sinker, curve and changeup into his battles with Steve Tolleson and Anthony Gose to ring them up.

"I can deal with the first inning. Made two bad pitches," Lester said. "The one to Melky wasn't terrible. Just coming back and being kind of stubborn there against Bautista after a homer and knowing they're going to be aggressive. It wasn't the smartest pitch but I can deal with solo homers. I've got to do a better job in the second inning minimizing damage.

"But that's neither here nor there, I've got to flat do a better job in the second inning of minimizing damage and doing a better job of getting these guys back in the dugout, especially after that first inning, we put up one."

Lester was without his normal catcher David Ross, who was replaced by A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate due to Pierzynski's familiarity with Toronto starter Mark Buehrle. Pierzynski was 9-for-22 for his career against his former White Sox batterymate coming into Thursday, when he went 1-for-3 against Buehrle and finished 1-for-4 for the game.

John Farrell defended his decision afterward, saying "the numbers just bear out" playing Pierzynski. When Pierzynski was asked about possibly being unfamiliar with Lester, Pierzynski scoffed.

"I'm not answering that question anymore, doesn't matter. You guys keep bringing that up," he said. "Opening Day [a 2-1 loss to Baltimore], we did well together. Today was just one of those days where it didn't work out. I had nothing to do with it."

Sending your ace to the mound and watching him promptly get shelled can be demoralizing, especially when mired in a collective slump like this, on the brink of unflattering history. But Thursday's loss was as much about timely bats -- or the lack thereof -- as any one pitching performance. The Sox left five more runners on base Thursday, the finishing touch on a frustrating homestand during which the Sox were just 10-for-49 with runners in scoring position. Despite registering 46 hits for the homestand, they were outscored 33-13 by the Tigers and Blue Jays.

"There have been games mixed in, particularly this series, where I thought we swung the bat better overall," Farrell said. "We were shut down pretty handily by the starters by Detroit. The number of hits were there, and we have spots that come up in the lineup where a key two-out base hit is not there for us."

Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has a simple solution: Forget about it.

"Obviously people are frustrated. We've got to play better, that's it. And we've got to take it one pitch at a time," he said. "We can't start winning games, 'Oh, we're gonna win 10 in a row, we're gonna win 15 in a row.' We're gonna win the next pitch. That's how we've got to start thinking."