Nothing's going right for Red Sox

BOSTON -- Ineffective pitching, including not one, but two run-producing balks. Poor defense when it counted. No sustained offense.

And then there was the ejection of manager Terry Francona, whose first step onto the field to protest plate umpire Angel Hernandez's second-inning balk call on Tim Wakefield earned him an automatic early shower, by rule.

So that about sums up how sloppy and frustrated Boston looked in dropping a 9-2 decision to the heretofore offensively challenged, injury-wracked Minnesota Twins, who were tied with the White Sox for the fewest victories heading into Friday night's game at Fenway Park.

Remember the recent 6-3 road trip that offered promise that the Red Sox's listing ship had been righted? Well, forget it. Friday night's loss was the third in a row for Boston, which slipped to a mere 3-5 on this 11-game homestand, the longest of the season.

"Last week we were on top of the world. Now we're not," said third baseman Kevin Youkilis. "We're riding that roller coaster I guess. We got on a stretch of winning games. Now we're on a stretch of losing games. We have to get back to winning."

The Red Sox roller coaster stopped at the bottom Friday night, as in the bottom of the American League East standings. Boston, the preseason pick in many quarters to win 100 games this season, now is 14-18, in fifth place in the division, one game behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wakefield, whose spot start was ended after only 4 1/3 innings, during which time he surrendered eight runs (six earned) on nine hits to the Twins (.230), the worst-hitting team in the league, tried to take a big-picture look at the Sox's situation.

"We need to play better, but you can't look at the record, technically," said Wakefield.

"We're only five games out and it's May. We're not 10-12 games out. We're in last place but we're still in the thick of things. We've had times in July when we've been in second [place], five games out. It's not an issue. We need to play better but I wouldn't push the panic button. Technically we're only five games out. That's not far."

OK, so maybe it isn't time for a full-fledged panic. But hopefully any youngsters seeking pointers on how to play the game were too busy with their video games to watch the Sox perform Friday night. It was that ugly.

No one is blaming the marathon 13-inning loss to the Angels, which ended around 2:45 Thursday morning, as the reason Boston was thumped 11-0 on Thursday by the Angels, or for Friday night's disappointment.

Indeed, some of the Sox were quick to mention that the other team deserves credit for playing well, too, sometimes pointing to a strong eight-inning effort by the Twins' Scott Baker, who was beaten only by solo homers from J.D. Drew (second inning) and Adrian Gonzalez (first Monster shot, in the fourth).

But shortstop Jed Lowrie's two errors and a ball that Gonzalez, a Gold Glove first baseman, wasn't able to come up with in the Twins' three-run second-inning flurry helped doom the Sox.

"We have to play better baseball," said Gonzalez. "We have to pay attention to detail. We're losing because we haven't been doing the little things."

Like hitting.

The Red Sox, supposedly featuring one of the most potent lineups in the majors, now have scored a grand total of two runs in their last 22 innings, on the solo homers off Baker. Fiery second baseman Dustin Pedroia's day off Thursday did not help him escape his slump. After a first-inning walk, he struck out, grounded into a double play and, in his final at-bat, whiffed with runners at second and third and two outs in the eighth. He's now 6 for his last 53.

Like pitching.

Wakefield served up a hanging knuckler for Trevor Plouffe's homer into the Monster seats in the first -- Plouffe's first big league at-bat of the season. His knuckler was up most of the time, and he had trouble finding the strike zone. He walked four. Alfredo Aceves saved the bullpen with 4 2/3 innings of one-run relief, but that was the pitching highlight.

Like making key defensive plays.

Gonzalez was unable to handle Denard Span's bouncer with the bases filled and two outs in the second. The ball got by him and into right field for two runs and a 3-0 Minnesota lead.

"It kicked up on me a little bit," said Gonzalez. "I was guarding the line a little with the bases loaded. The ball was to my right. He runs fast so you have to make that play quick, you can't play back for a good hop and wait for it. It must have hit a hard spot and kicked up. It went off the tip of my glove."

The score was 6-2, still in range, with two outs and runners at second and third in the fifth. Aceves got Drew Butera to hit a hard grounder to short. Lowrie was unable to handle the ball, which scooted into the outfield for an error, permitting two runs to score. That made it 8-2, and effectively croaked the Sox.

Was he screened by the runner on the play?

"Yeah, but it's not an excuse. I have to find a way to make that play," said Lowrie, who also failed to handle a throw from catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a stolen-base attempt in the sixth for his second error, leading to the final Twins run.

So all in all, it was not a good night for the Red Sox, but they were expressing the turn-the-page mantra. Saturday is a new day, another game.

"Anytime you lose and you don't play well," said Lowrie, "you have to find a way to regroup and win."

Steven Krasner is a regular contributor to ESPNBoston.com.