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How bad are these Boston Red Sox? Orioles visit town 5 games ahead of them in standings after being 8.5 games back June 30 8/11/2022 Christopher Smith,

BOSTON — How bad have things gotten for the Red Sox?

Just look up at the standings on the Green Monster. The Orioles, who play here Thursday, are five games ahead of last-place Boston.

Boston owned an 8½-game lead over the Orioles on June 30.

“We’ve got to pitch better. We’ve got to play better. That’s the bottom line,” manager Alex Cora said after the Red Sox’s 8-4 loss to the Braves here at Fenway Park on Wednesday.

Atlanta swept the two-game series.

The Red Sox look like they are finished. If they aren’t dead yet, the next four games (one game against the Orioles and three games against the Yankees at home) could bury them. Boston is 0-11-1 in 12 series against AL East teams this season. It has a 12-29 record against division opponents. There’s no reason to believe the next four days will be any different.

The Red Sox are 11-25 with a negative-96 run differential since July 1.

Tommy Pham gave Boston some life in the seventh inning here Wednesday, crushing a 412-foot three-run homer to dead center field to cut the Sox’s four-run deficit to 5-4.

But reliever Ryan Brasier handed the momentum right back to the Braves in the top of the eighth. The righty allowed two singles, one double and a sac fly. Atlanta took a 7-4 lead.

Brasier and Darwinzon Hernandez combined to allow four runs while recording just five outs.

The bullpen continues to be an absolute disaster. Red Sox relievers have a 5.85 ERA (155 ⅓ innings, 101 earned runs) since the start of July. That’s after the bullpen posted a 3.20 ERA in 84 ⅓ innings during June.

“We’ve been talking about two-out walks, two-out runs. But the shutdown innings, too,” Cora said.

Nick Pivetta pitched well Wednesday (6 innings, 3 earned runs) but Red Sox starters have been worse than the relievers with a 6.46 ERA (164 ⅓ innings, 118 earned runs) since July 1. That’s after Boston starters had a 2.91 ERA in 26 starts in June.

Injuries have played a role but still ... This is bad.

The Red Sox also haven’t done much offensively either with a .232/.282/.403/.685 line here in August.

J.D. Martinez, whose struggles date back to early June, is 5-for-31 (.161) in August. Xander Bogaerts is 7-for-34 (.206) this month. Four of those seven hits came in one game.

“We can talk about mechanics and all that but we need to swing at strikes,” Cora said when asked what he’s seeing from Martinez. “We’re chasing a lot of pitches.”

Martinez went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts Wednesday. He grounded into a double play.

“When you don’t swing (at pitches) in the zone, that’s going to happen,” Cora said. “He expanded with the sinker in a few times. Struck out with a breaking ball down and then expanded with the double play. We can talk all about mechanics and work as hard as he does but the swing decisions have to be better.”

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