Red Sox starting pitcher Brayan Bello reacts as Nolan Gorman of the Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the Cardinals’ 10-6 win  Friday night in St. Louis. Boston dropped 2 of 3 to the Cardinals and is a game under .500 heading into Monday night’s series opener at Tampa Bay. Joe Puetz/Associated Press

The Red Sox wrapped up a three-game series in St. Louis with an 11-3 victory Sunday — a series that illustrated just how quickly the sports landscape can change.

Boston had not visited Busch Stadium since 2017, when it was in the midst of a three-season run of playoff appearances. The following year the Sox won their fourth championship of the millennium. General Manager Dave Dombrowski was all-in, going for broke to bring a title to Boston.

In May 2017, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in a two-game series en route to a second straight AL East title. Mookie Betts set the tone with a leadoff home run off Lance Lynn in the opener, a 6-3 Boston win. The next day, defending Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello got the start and Xander Bogaerts hit a pair of triples in a 5-4 victory.

Now, through Sunday, the Sox and Cardinals are a combined seven games under .500.

Boston’s pitching has come back to earth in a big way. The staff posted the only sub-3.00 ERA in the first month of the season, but the team ERA in the last two weeks is 4.11.

The offense also has been struggling. The Sox are hitting .228 with runners in scoring position this season, the fifth-lowest in the American League. Worse, they’ve struck out a staggering 111 times in 463 plate appearances in those situations – a 24% strikeout rate.


“At the end of the day we’ve (got to) score runs,” Manager Alex Cora said after Saturday’s 7-2 loss. “We can’t play these games all the time, right? Tight games all the way. We put pressure on the bullpen. At (some) point we have to start producing runs.”

Pressure is one thing, converting opportunities is another. The Sox lineup is showing its youth, with inexperienced hitters taking big cuts when shorter, quicker swings might be a better way to accomplish Cora’s goal to “keep the line moving.”

The offensive approach mirrors the industry’s obsession with bat speed. This week, Major League Baseball released a batch of data on hitting, including bat speed and swing length.

Giancarlo Stanton of the Yankees has the highest average bat speed of all qualified hitters. At the bottom of the 220-player list is Luis Arraez of the Padres.

Both are very different hitters. Stanton is capable of far more damage, with 11 homers and a .530 slugging percentage. Arraez has yet to homer this season, and his .372 slugging percentage doesn’t compare.

But Stanton has struck out 53 times, compared to just 13 for Arraez.

On Sunday, the Sox broke out of their offensive slump. It was exactly what they needed before starting a series against the Rays.

“It’s good to be around .500 but we expect more,” Cora said.

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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