The Orioles outscored the Red Sox 18-5 in their three-game weekend sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Terry Francona used to say there’s no better place to play well than in Boston. The former Red Sox manager also liked to say there isn’t a tougher place to play poorly.

The 2021 Red Sox already know that. They were swept by Baltimore – the presumptive pick to finish last in the American League East – and heard boos from the 4,500 or so fans allowed at Fenway Park in the early days of the season.

In Boston, overreaction to the start of a baseball season is a tradition. And the reaction to an 0-3 start has not been good. It was just the second time in Red Sox history that Boston began the season with three straight losses at home. The last time it happened, Harry Truman was president.

The good news is that team went 64-27 down the stretch to win 96 games that season. The bad news is Ted Williams isn’t walking through the clubhouse door this time around.

“We got beat in every aspect of the game,” Manager Alex Cora said Sunday after the Orioles’ sweep. “The first few games we didn’t play good defense. We didn’t swing the bat. Today, we didn’t pitch. We’re off to a rough start.”

On Friday and Saturday the Red Sox bats were cold, and one misplay in each game opened the door for Baltimore to score its first runs of the games. They were close games that felt different from the ugliness of 2020.

Sunday’s loss took us right back to last year. Garrett Richards’ first start for the Red Sox was an absolute disaster. He faced 15 Orioles batters, giving up hits to seven of them and walking two others. Six of those batters scored. He came out of the game with nobody out and the bases loaded in the third and got an earful from the small but vocal crowd at not-so-friendly Fenway.

“It’s three games in a season,” said Richards afterward. “It’s kind of an early panic button.”

Not in Boston. Not after last season. Richards has spent his entire career pitching for West Coast teams in Anaheim and San Diego. Those fans are a little kinder and gentler, the expectations not nearly as high for those teams.

Around here we expect championships. And the Red Sox are a sub-.500 team since they boarded the duck boats in the fall of 2018.

If you sifted through the rubble of a lost weekend you could find a couple of positive notes like J.D. Martinez’s 5-for-10 start (and the team’s only home run) and 3 1/3 scoreless innings from Rule 5 Draft pickup Garrett Whitlock.

But no one was talking about any of that Monday. The talk was about a team picking up where it left off after a season, and a year, we all want to forget. That’s not an overreaction. That’s reality.

There is plenty of time for the Red Sox to put this behind them but it’s going to get late early for a team that desperately needs to build confidence internally, and externally with fans. A good start for this team was critical if it wanted to avoid becoming irrelevant in the Boston sports scene.

Three games isn’t a start. It’s a blip on the radar of a 162-game season. But when those three games come at the start of the year a team’s blemishes are magnified. It’s the worst start for the Red Sox since 2012.

You may remember 2012. That was the year Bobby Valentine managed the Red Sox, a year where the team seemed to hit rock bottom every couple of weeks.

We’re not sure if this is rock bottom for the 2021 Red Sox. We do know there is nowhere to go but up after being outscored 18-5 over the first three games of the season.

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


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