Here's what Red Sox can do about their struggling lineup: nothing

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Tomase: There's no quick fix for slumping Red Sox offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There's only so much tinkering a manager can do when his lineup has collectively powered down. Just ask Alex Cora.

The Red Sox skipper understands the ebbs and flows of a 162-game season, and the Red Sox offense isn't so much ebbing at the moment as dried up in a creek bed.

However you'd fix everything, it's safe to say that Cora has already considered it. Drop Kiké Hernández from the leadoff spot? OK. That means Alex Verdugo hits first, so who bats second? Rafael Devers? Then the lineup's only lefties are stacked. Bench Marwin Gonzalez? No problem. Just note that presumed replacement Danny Santana doesn't have a hit in five games since opening his Red Sox career with two homers and a triple. Move up the red-hot Hunter Renfroe? He's already jumped into the six-hole.

The punchless Red Sox dropped their third straight to the Astros on Wednesday. They've managed just four runs in three games and the struggles are coming from everywhere, leaving Cora to make a starkly honest admission.

Power outage

Red Sox' runs per game in 2021

4.9

Red Sox' runs per game, last five games

2.4

Variation

Double

"What kind of adjustments can we do right now?" he asked. "There's not much you can do. You trust the process, trust the player, and they're due now. That's the way I see it."

The bats have gone collectively silent. The Red Sox are hitting .222 over the last week, and three regulars don't have a hit in that span -- Hernández, Gonzalez, and Xander Bogaerts. Santana is just 1 for 10. The only regular that's producing is Renfroe, who's batting .550 over his last six games.

The Red Sox knew they'd be top-heavy, and they survived that way for two months. But their big three of Bogaerts, Devers, and J.D. Martinez is finally showing the strain of carrying the load. Martinez has driven in just two runs since May 21. Bogaerts is in one of those funks where he continuously chases slop off the plate, his last hit coming on May 26. The book is out on Devers and somehow it's that he can't catch up to a fastball.

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Bogaerts, Devers, and Martinez remain the only active trio of teammates each boasting an OPS of over .900, though one more hitless day could drop Bogaerts from that club. When they don't hit, the Red Sox generally don't win.

"We will turn it around," Bogaerts said. "We're putting in the work. I don't know, it's just it's not working out now and it's a bad time to be struggling, for me personally, and for the team. Obviously I know some guys that have been doing a good job getting on base, it's just, I haven't been able to get out of this thing that I'm in right now, but I know I'll get out of it because that's the way this game is."

The warts are starting to show, but they were to be expected. The Red Sox prioritized versatility when building the roster this winter, and that meant committing regular at-bats to a number of career platoon players.

The Red Sox built the lineup on a budget, and what had to give was on base percentage. Renfroe (.291 lifetime OBP), Hernández (.310), and Gonzalez (.315) have never been particularly disciplined hitters, and that hasn't changed just because they're playing for the Red Sox, who currently rank 14th in the American League with just 144 walks.

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"You still want to be aggressive in the strike zone," Cora said. "But I think we fall into this trap that, yeah, we can put the ball in play in different places in the strike zone, but if you swing at pitches on the edge of the strike zone there's not too much damage, there's not too much you can do and sometimes you have to win those battles in the edge of the strike zone. Sometimes 3-2 you take those pitches. If it's a pitch on the black and you strike out, so be it, but sometimes if it's a 50-50 pitch, there's nothing you can do."

The lack of offensive punch has allowed the AL East standings to tighten considerably. Even after losing two straight to the Yankees, the rampaging Rays have won 16 of their last 20. The Yankees have pulled within a game and a half of the Red Sox with a three-game showdown looming this weekend in the Bronx. The Blue Jays have won six of eight and now trail the Red Sox by just 2.5 games.

"This sport, we're always reacting to what the pitcher is throwing," said bench coach Tim Hyers. "It's not like we have the ball in our court. We have to react. We've got to keep doing a better job, as you see the numbers, the major league average, it keeps moving down. We've got to find ways to combat it. It's not going anywhere."