Fans in the sellout crowd at Fenway Park were still bellowing the lyrics to “Sweet Caroline” when Rafael Devers ambushed a first-pitch curveball thrown by Angels reliever Trevor Cahill to start the eighth inning.
The baseball hurtled into the right-field corner for a home run . It was the 22-year-old’s 24th homer of the season and represented his 50th RBI since June 11. It was worth celebrating.
But the stadium’s denizens were so preoccupied by the insurmountable lead their home team had already built, they hardly seemed to notice.
If only the Angels could have ignored the blast.
The Angels have been breaking down for two weeks. Performances like the ones in Friday night’s 16-4 defeat made it seem like correcting course could take significant time.
Angels manager Brad Ausmus did not beat around the bush when asked to assess his team.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said.
The Angels’ losing streak, which stretched to eight games, reached a new height Friday. In their seven previous losses, no opponent had put up double-digit runs. On Friday, Angels relievers Justin Anderson and Adalberto Mejia surrendered five before getting a second out in the sixth inning. The Red Sox took a 10-3 lead.
The misery was compounded by Cahill, who served up three homers over the final 2 2/3 innings.
The Angels have allowed 22 home runs since this skid started July 31. They have been outscored 63-20. They took leads in three games but squandered them all.
Since going 12-6 to start the month of July, the Angels have lost 12 of 14.
“Everything’s kind of gone south all at once,” Cahill said. “I feel like we have been a streaky team all year. … It’s just one of those things, when we score, we’re not pitching. When we pitch, we’re not hitting. It’s not fun but you gotta go out and play baseball tomorrow and beat the other team.”
On Friday, it seemed they might get a chance. They were even given an advantage when home plate umpire Mark Ripperger missed what appeared to be a strike to Justin Upton. Upton walked to bring up Albert Pujols, who deposited a breaking pitch into the Green Monster seats in left field for a three-run homer.
The 3-0 lead disappeared by the end of the fourth inning .
Second-year starter Jaime Barria had retired seven in a row when Xander Bogaerts led off the fourth with a double. He scored on J.D. Martinez’s first of two home runs of the night, tying the game at 3-3.
“Home runs have killed us, especially in this stretch,” Ausmus said. “We can’t walk guys. It’s pretty simple. It’s not just Barria. It’s our entire staff.
“It boils down to execution. If you execute the pitches, you are generally not going to give up a home run. You might give up a hit but they are generally not going to hit the ball out of the park.”
Barria settled down long enough to retire four straight batters after the first homer, then he gave up a single with one out in the fifth inning. Mookie Betts brought the runner home with a two-run blast that cleared the Green Monster and hit a billboard above the seats.
Hours earlier, general manager Billy Eppler pointed to the continued development of young players as a reason for optimism about the final 45 games of a season that now appears lost.
It was hard to find even that silver lining. The Angels’ sixth-inning troubles were inflamed by second baseman Luis Rengifo’s gaffe. A dribbler rolled through the rookie’s legs and into the outfield. Two runs scored on a play that would have secured at least one out if executed correctly.
“It’s not lack of effort,” Ausmus said. “Guys care. They are doing their work every day. They are just not performing. Anyone who puts a uniform on is to blame, including the coaching staff and myself.”