Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush, second from left, walks to the mound to talk to Martin Perez during Boston’s 11-2 loss to the Phillies on Saturday at Fenway Park. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

BOSTON — There was a leadoff home run, and the Red Sox fell behind quickly.

All according to plan?

Not this time.

The Red Sox magic this 2021 season did not appear Saturday afternoon in an 11-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, a game that was competitive until the Phillies scored eight runs in the eighth inning.

But before we mention some of the gory details, can we recall Kiké Hernández’s interview Friday afternoon, before this series with the Phillies began.

“We’re in first place. We’re playing good baseball,” he said. “Can’t ask for anything more.”


All true.

Despite boos heard around Fenway Park, the Red Sox lead the American League East (1 1/2 games ahead of the Rays) with one of baseball’s best records: 55-35.

More from Hernandez:

“We’ve had a great first half. Obviously, we want to close it out with a series win, sweep if possible.”

A series win is still possible, but the chance of a sweep slipped away.

Hernández has made a habit of leadoff homers, with five this year. But it was Philadelphia’s Jean Segura who began Saturday’s game with a blast over the Monster against Martin Perez (7-5).


A 1-0 deficit became 3-0 on Alec Bohm’s two-run blast in the second inning over the Monster, on a Perez changeup that stayed up too much (reminiscent of Bohm’s homer over the Hadlock Field left-field wall two years ago off a Kutter Crawford hanging curve).

Deficits are often not a big deal to the Red Sox, who lead the majors with 29 come-from-behind wins.

No. 30 did not happen Saturday, as Boston recorded only four hits and the bullpen collapsed in the eighth inning.

Despite Perez’s short outing – his sixth start of less than four innings – the Red Sox rotation has been a strength. Boston’s regular five starters have made 88 of the team’s 90 starts. Tanner Houck made the other two (one in early April, the other in a doubleheader).

“We’re doing a great job,” Perez said. “We’ve been pitching every five days. If we continue to do that, we’re going to get to October.”

Durability is huge. Look at the 2004 rotation, which started 157 of 162 games. Consistency led to a World Series title.


Granted, that 2004 group was headed by Curt Schilling (3.26 ERA) and Pedro Martinez (3.90). So far in 2021, only All-Star Nate Eovaldi (3.66) has been stellar. But Nick Pivetta (4.09) looks like he is getting there.

Pivetta goes for win No. 8 on Sunday against the team that traded him to the Red Sox last year – a steal for Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom.

The rotation may get more help soon. Houck is ready to return to the majors and could fill in as an extra starter to rest the rotation, or as long reliever.

Or Houck could piggy-back another lefty – Chris Sale.

The Sale factor is one of the intriguing parts of the second half of this season. When will the Red Sox deem him ready to go, and how effective will he be, coming off Tommy John surgery 16 months ago?

Sale pitched in another controlled scrimmage in Florida on Saturday. Rehab outings are coming.


The rotation needs to eat more innings to save a bullpen that has held up. Going into Saturday, Red Sox relievers ranked fourth in the American League in ERA (3.46).

Saturday’s relief started well with Hirokazu Sawamura and Garrett Whitlock combining for three scoreless innings.

But then lefty Josh Taylor experienced a rare blowup. Taylor has been a pleasant surprise, recording 26 consecutive scoreless appearances (one shy of Koji Uehara’s record of 27 in 2013). The Red Sox have held onto Taylor since they traded Deven Marrero for him in 2018 (Taylor relieved 33 games for the Sea Dogs that year), and he has blossomed.

On Saturday, Taylor did not record an out in the eighth inning, yielding a single, a walk, a double and a hit batter.

“He’s been so great for 2-2½ months,” Cora said. “That’s not typical.”

Brandon Workman followed. Workman, who was traded to the Phillies in the Pivetta deal and then came back to Boston this year, had been on a roll with eight straight scoreless innings. He also could not get an out (one single, two walks).


The pitching failed on Saturday, but so did the offense.

There is pop in this lineup with All-Stars J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers batting 3-4-5. But there are holes. One possible answer is in Triple-A.

Red Sox Nation awaits the arrival of outfielder Jarren Duran from Worcester, where he has a .950 OPS, 15 home runs and 10 stolen bases in 43 games. Duran is not going to the Olympics because the Red Sox wanted the option to call him back for a major league call-up.

For more additions, Bloom may have to shop, maybe for a first baseman. Bobby Dalbec shows power potential with 10 home runs, but he is batting .218 with a .673 OPS. He went 0 for 4 Saturday with three strikeouts.

Red Sox fans may dream of an Anthony Rizzo reunion (now that the Cubs are sellers), but the price will be high. Still, Bloom is sure to do something.

This Red Sox team is very good. A few tweaks, and Boston baseball in late October is a possibility.

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