One of the most frustrating road trips in recent Red Sox memory ended with catcher Jason Varitek watching strike three, as roars of "Sweep, sweep, sweep" cascaded around Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
It was the first time Boston has been swept this season.
"Unfortunately from where we stand, it's the same story it's been the last few days," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's not a lack of energy or trying. We're just collectively not putting any runs on the board."
Boston won the opener of the six-game road trip, but it all went downhill from there. Perhaps a return to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox host the Orioles on Friday night, will cure all that ails them. In that contest, first baseman Adam LaRoche, acquired from the Pirates on Wednesday, will make his debut in a Sox uniform.
During the road trip, the Red Sox hit .192. Right fielder J.D. Drew was a symbol of the futility, going 0-for-21.
Even when Drew hit the ball hard, he couldn't reach base, as was the case when he scorched a grounder up the middle in the ninth. It was struck just close enough for second baseman Ian Kinsler to make a diving stop.
"Absolutely baffled," said Drew. "When you hit a ball like that, you put your head down, you think it's a hit. And it's right at the guy. That's par for the course for me right now."
The typically low-key Drew was noticeably irritated after the game.
"I don't know what to say other than a big question mark," said Drew. "I don't know what in the world [is going on]. I've hit the ball hard five times over the last two days, for nothing. Just keep doing what I'm doing. Try to hit it hard. See what happens."
Even when the Rangers had to scratch scheduled starter Vicente Padilla because of an illness, the Red Sox couldn't capitalize. Instead, Texas swingman Dustin Nippert did what a lot of opposing pitchers have done of late and stifled the Boston bats, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings.
"It's crazy," said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz. "Especially a team that is capable of hitting like this one. This kind of funk, it happens. This is baseball, man."
Entering the game, Nippert was 3-5 with a 6.75 ERA in 13 career starts.
"There's really no explanation for it," said center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "We obviously have very good hitters on the team, and we just happen to be going through a rough patch."
Clay Buchholz's second Major League start of the season was unspectacular.
The right-hander threw 90 pitches over four innings, allowing six hits and three runs. He walked two, struck out three and hit a batter.
The biggest downfall for Buchholz was that he had no command of his curveball.
"It's hard being a starter and only having two pitches and consistently getting batters out," said Buchholz.
Nick Green gave the slumping offense a boost when he hammered a solo homer to center to lead off the third, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.
But Buchholz didn't keep the momentum in his dugout for long. Kinsler led off the bottom of the third for the Rangers by ripping a solo homer of his own to tie the game at 1.
Unlike his start in Toronto, Buchholz never looked in rhythm. The Rangers went back at him in the fourth, getting singles by Nelson Cruz and David Murphy to open the inning. Taylor Teagarden got the go-ahead run home on a fielder's-choice grounder. Elvis Andrus then surprised the Red Sox by getting another run home, on a squeeze bunt in which everyone was safe, making it 3-1.
"Pretty surprised," Buchholz said. "That didn't cross my mind at all. Good bunt -- he put it down in the perfect spot. If it was five feet closer to me, I think we would have had a shot at him at home."
A two-run lead -- the way the Red Sox have been going -- was significant. Boston would not be heard from again.
"We got a Nick Green solo homer and that's all we had to show. That's a hard way to win," Francona said.