September slide continues for slumping Boston Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox took a significant step toward a potential turnaround in 2016 by announcing the promotion of Mike Hazen to general manager on Thursday. On the field, the current edition has suddenly taken on the look of a team that needs a fresh start.

The Boston offense continued to fizzle in a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the hours after the Hazen move became official. It marked the third straight two-run performance — all losses — and the club has been held scoreless in 24 of 27 innings during the slide.

It’s a sharp turn for a team that spent much of August and the first half of September as one of the top offenses in the game.

“Our offense was held in check for the third consecutive day,” interim manager Torey Lovullo said. “I think that’s six runs in three days, and we feel like we’d win some of those games but unfortunately we were playing catch-up and couldn’t do it today.”

Rays starters Matt Moore, Drew Smyly and Erasmo Ramirez, who allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings Thursday, deserve to be given credit. That’s what Lovullo would rather do, knowing the sample size is not large enough to write off his usually potent lineup.

“Sometimes you gotta back out of this whole thing and say they had a good game plan,” Lovullo said. “We’re among the league leaders in offense and they just did their job.”

Red Sox starters have also done their job during the slide, but each has mirrored the offense’s sudden late-season swoon with late-game issues of their own.

On Thursday it was Wade Miley’s turn. He breezed through the first five innings, teaming with Ramirez to get the game to the latter half in about an hour. Then came the sixth, and a home run, two doubles and a single gave the Rays three runs. Another home run in the seventh and a later double to catcher Luke Maile — who entered the at-bat 1-for-21 — spelled the end for the Red Sox lefty.

“Just not executing pitches,” he said of his struggles in the sixth and seventh. “Getting in counts I needed to be in and just not putting guys away.”

Rick Porcello followed a similar pattern Wednesday, allowing five of the final seven men he faced to reach base and somewhat spoil an otherwise positive outing. It was rookie Henry Owens on Tuesday giving up all five of his runs from the fifth inning on.

The Sox have lost three straight for the first time since before the trade deadline, when they were 14 games below .500 and careening toward a front-office shakeup. Those were some of the losses that led to Hazen’s introduction Thursday, and perhaps this week’s downturn is an indication that the club is getting ready to turn the page.