The Boston Red Sox are 3-8 this season against the Yankees and Astros – the two teams they beat in the American League playoffs last fall. Boston begins the week 8 1/2 games behind New York in the AL East standings. David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox spent a day off in Kansas City on Monday, trying to catch their breath from another high-profile weekend in New York. Manager Alex Cora and his team were hoping the day would give them a chance to regroup and reset their sights as they roll through June.

They were hoping that would be the case last Thursday when their game was rained out with the Yankees. It wasn’t.

For the third straight weekend, the Sox won a crucial Sunday game to avoid being swept by a division leader. This time it was the Yankees, who won the series and built an 8 1/2 game cushion between themselves and Boston. The two previous weeks it was the Astros taking two of three.

This season, the Red Sox are 3-8 against New York and Houston. It’s a clear sign that at this point they are not at the same level as the two teams they beat in the American League playoffs last season.

While the Red Sox stumbled through April we kept reminding ourselves it was early. Surely this team had enough talent to bounce back from their 6-13 start. It looked like they had turned things around when they swept a three-game series at Tampa Bay and ran off an 11-5 run after that.

Then they ran into Houston and lost two series in 10 days. Then Terry Francona’s underachieving Cleveland Indians exploited Boston’s bullpen and took two of three at Fenway. Then it was into the Bronx, a place that has again become a house of horrors for Boston.

The Sox will play their 60th game of the season Tuesday night. Suddenly it’s not early anymore. In fact, it’s not too early to start thinking about the wild-card race. Boston began the week one game out in that race, with two teams ahead of them and four others just one game back.

Earlier this season Red Sox assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett said, “Last year was Disney World. This is baseball.” His point was clear: there would be no running away with anything in 2019. This summer is going to be a grind. Every game, every inning will be critical to the team’s hopes of returning to the postseason for the fourth straight year.

We’ve seen glimpses of what this team is capable of. On Sunday night David Price shook off the demons of New York and pitched a gem. He retired the first 10 Yankees he faced, holding the Bronx Bombers in check while J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts homered, and the Sox built a lead.

Brandon Workman picked up a save as he closed out the game with the drama-free ninth inning. It was another happy flight as the Sox ended the weekend with a win.

Yet fans have grown increasingly frustrated with the team’s inability to play well with any consistency. Chris Sale has pitched OK, but he hasn’t been the dominant ace the team needs and expects. Eduardo Rodriguez has become a Jekyll-and-Hyde starter.  Is he tipping pitches? Can he get lefties out? We never know from start to start.

And the bullpen has gone from surprisingly effective to a source of concern. Matt Barnes has been the best of the lot, but he struggled mightily in the eighth inning Sunday night, just one week after a 10th-inning implosion in Houston.

In the coming days the Boston Bruins magical run will come to an end, and casual fans will turn their attention to the Red Sox. While the Sox are very much alive for a spot in the postseason, it’s hard to imagine this team overcoming the Yankees.

The Red Sox have teased us with glimpses of what they can be. The Tampa Bay Rays come to town this weekend for four games. It’ll be the fourth straight weekend the Sox play a team holding a playoff spot. The last three weekends have led to a bigger deficit for Boston. As the old baseball saying goes, it’s starting to feel like it’s getting late early at Fenway.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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