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The Strike Zone

What's worse than a 10-game losing streak for Red Sox? How about a brawl?

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When we look back on it, this Memorial Day weekend might be the touchstone you point to if the Red Sox’s 2014 season falls apart for good.

First, they put Shane Victorino on the DL with a strained right hamstring. Then Mike Napoli joined him there, due to a multitude of maladies including a long-dislocated ring finger. On Sunday, Boston lost its tenth game in a row – thereby becoming the first reigning champion to have a losing streak that long since the post firesale 1998 Marlins – but not before they had added insult to their injuries (brawl above).

It happened in the seventh inning, when Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar took third base on defensive indifference with his team ahead 8-3. Apparently swiping a bag with a five-run lead is forbidden in an unwritten rulebook possessed by only the reeling, cranky Sox. Players in the Red Sox' dugout began cursing at Escobar, and then Jonny Gomes took it upon himself to run in from left field and shove him. Predictably, both benches cleared.

After the game, Rays manager Joe Maddon correctly pointed out five-run leads aren’t exactly safe, even in the seventh inning, and his side did not object in last year’s ALDS when Jacoby Ellsbury stole second base with the Sox leading the Rays by the score of 8-2 in the eighth inning.

“Our goal is to not permit them to score runs,” said the Rays’ skipper, who had his 700th Rays victory overshadowed. “Their goal is to score runs – the whole game. That’s always been the goal within the game of baseball. Apparently some of the guys on their bench did not like that.”

What they probably liked less was their 10-game losing streak, and falling to 20-29 and eight games behind the AL East-leading Blue Jays. Last year’s self-assured Sox wouldn’t have cared a bit about something like what Escobar did Sunday. Even though it features most of the same faces, this year’s club is different, as its absurd behavior on Sunday demonstrated.

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