BOSTON — It wasn’t all gloom during the Boston Red Sox batting practice Saturday at Fenway Park. Hanley Ramirez danced his way back to the dugout, holding a bat above his head. Brock Holt failed miserably at a behind-the-back throw, drawing a patronizing hug from Xander Bogaerts.

But once players stepped into the cage, taking their swings, there was no laughter. No joking. Only focus.

“We’ve just got to hit,” Ramirez said later.

Boston hasn’t been hitting in this American League division series, laying down in consecutive 8-2 losses in Houston.

Game 3 is Sunday at Fenway Park. A loss will mean a second straight sweep in the ALDS. Cleveland beat Boston in three straight last year.

“No, no. Not two years in a row. We’ve got to find a way,” Ramirez said.

And if Boston can find a way?

“If we can win the next one, we can change a lot of stuff,” Bogaerts said.

Bogaerts’ words may not be as flamboyant as Kevin Millar’s, but the sentiment is the same. In 2004, when the Red Sox fell behind 3-0 in the best-of-seven American League Champion Series, Millar kept saying, “Don’t let us win one.” Boston won one, and then the next three.

Boston also has recovered from 0-2 starts in the division series to win (1999 and 2003). But the last three times it’s happened, the Red Sox were swept (2005, 2009, 2016).

A sweep looks likely the way Houston is hammering Boston, which doesn’t look like a team that won 93 games this season.

“We’re the Red Sox. We should be in a better position,” Ramirez said.

Boston’s downfall hasn’t only been the bats. Pitching was supposed to be a strength and the arms have failed, starting with the starters – Chris Sale (five innings, seven runs) and Drew Pomeranz (two innings, four runs).

Now Boston turns to Doug Fister, who knows what’s it like to be near elimination. In Fister’s case, it was his career. Fister, 33, pitched for Houston last year (12-13, 4.64 ERA) but wasn’t re-signed. Fister finally signed in May with the Angels but was waived after three Triple-A starts.

The Red Sox grabbed him on June 23 and now their postseason survival rests in his right hand.

“The journey’s definitely had some ups and downs,” Fister said.

There have been a lot of ups in the postseason. In eight postseason starts (seven with the Tigers, one with Washington), Fister is 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA. That’s the lowest playoff ERA for a starter (minimum 50 innings) since this format began in 1969.

Manager John Farrell likes Fister’s experience and the way he’s throwing the ball lately.

“The current action to the (sinker) and his cutter, a little bit more depth to his curveball,” Farrell said. “Maybe slow down some of their right-handed hitters.”

Houston’s first four batters – George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa – are all right-handed. They have combined for 12 hits (six home runs, two doubles), 11 runs and 11 RBI.

The Astros have jumped quickly, grabbing 2-0 leads in both games. Another first-inning outburst could sink the Red Sox. Farrell knows that.

“It is about setting the tone right from the start,” Farrell said. “And that falls to (Fister), to put a zero up in the first inning and allow us to capture the energy here.”

But the first inning has been Fister’s worst, allowing 15 runs in his 15 starts.

“It’s just a matter of going out there and getting in a rhythm and, unfortunately, it’s taken me a little bit to get in a rhythm sometimes,” Fister said. “I guess I’ll try emulating the last outing.”

In his last start, Fister faced the Astros on Sept. 29 at Fenway. He pitched a scoreless first, allowing a run in the third and two in the fifth in a 3-2 loss.

We have talked before about this disappearing Boston offense, which gets shut down with surprising frequency. The Sox are picking a bad time to pull another vanishing act.

“That goes without saying,” Farrell said. “We have had stretches of really quality games played (when the) offense produced. We need everybody in the lineup to do their job.”

That starts with Bogaerts, who has led off the past two games and is 0 for 11.

“I know what I can do. It’s up to me to go out there and perform to my abilities, Bogaerts said. “I know I can do a lot to help when I’m going good.”

NOTES: Sandy Leon usually catches Fister and will get the start over Christian Vazquez. … Mookie Betts, who aggravated his sore wrist Friday, took batting practice and is expected to play. … Houston right-handed starter Brad Peacock beat the Red Sox on Sept. 28, allowing two runs in 51/3 innings.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBases