Red Sox Manager Alex Cora has seen his team struggle in the second half of the season. Boston has lost 10 games since the All-Star break and fallen out of first in the AL East. Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The bad news is the Red Sox stink right now.

The good news is Alex Cora knows it, is being honest about it and is addressing it.

“I can put it plain and simple for everybody, I don’t think you guys have to ask too many questions today: We didn’t pitch, we didn’t play good defense, we didn’t hit,” Cora said after the Sox lost to the Tigers, 8-1, to drop the series on Thursday afternoon. “It wasn’t a good effort today. Where we’re at right now, we have to get better. That’s the bottom line.”

For all the bad baseball the Red Sox have played over the last decade, rarely has it accompanied an honest assessment by the manager.

The 2019 Red Sox were a mediocre team that underperformed after a World Series title the year before, but Cora largely stood by that team, defending their effort and offering almost exclusively positive assessments of his players right down to the final game.

But in 2018? Cora was honest and often blunt about the way the team needed to improve, even as the Sox went on to win 108 games and cruised to a World Series title.

Former Sox manager John Farrell was adept at making positive comments after awful performances. Even as David Price continued to underperform, Farrell would often say he had “great stuff” after getting shelled.

We’ve seen too many mediocre baseball teams skirt by with managers who said everything was fine. And nothing changes.

At the very least, the Sox have a manager who understands what’s happening.

As the Red Sox were laughed out of Detroit while scoring just seven runs in three games against a team that typically allows twice as many, Cora offered the most brutally honest assessment of his team since he took over as manager the first time in 2018.

“It looks like right now, we’re a step slower, we’re not moving well and I know we’re in August and it’s a grind, but we have an opportunity to play in October,” he said. “We put ourselves in this situation. People can doubt us or they can feel like this team can do it, but bottom line, we have to show up every day and play better.”

The starting rotation isn’t doing the job.

Martin Perez allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings before he was pulled. He has a 7.13 ERA over his last 11 starts.

Nick Pivetta has a 5.43 ERA over his last 13 starts.

Garrett Richards has a 7.36 ERA over his last nine starts.

Chris Sale is coming, but not until at least next week, and Cora wouldn’t commit to his starting rotation beyond saying Nathan Eovaldi will pitch on Friday.

But as poor as the rotation has been, it’s the Red Sox’ offense that drives this train. All of a sudden the Sox look like a team of slow-pitch softball players trying to uppercut everything out of the park.

Since the All-Star break, the Sox rank 29th in MLB while making contact just 73% of the time. It isn’t far from their season rate of 75%, which also ranks in the bottom third.

“We’ve been preaching, we’ve been talking about it and then at the end, we have to do it on the field,” Cora said. “Maybe we’re trying too hard, maybe we have the wrong approach, maybe we’re giving them the wrong information. We have to figure it out. This is a good offensive team. This is a team that gets energy from the offense.”

The Sox have to look under the hood and wonder why the three players they drafted, developed and promoted to the big leagues this year – Bobby Dalbec, Michael Chavis and Jarren Duran – have three of the lowest contact rates in baseball.

Chavis, who makes contact just 61% of the time, was traded last week for reliever Austin Davis, who hasn’t looked sharp since coming over from the Pirates.

Duran is revealing an all-or-nothing approach that worked well in Triple-A, but has left him with a 67% contact rate and a .176 average through his first 17 big-league games.

And Dalbec continues to look like a fish out of water with a 62% contact rate and a plate approach that could be described as a game of Guess Who?

That the Sox continue to give Dalbec at-bats is a question without a clear answer. Perhaps if they had developed some contact hitters in the minors, they’d have other options. One of them, Triston Casas, has carried Team USA to the gold medal game against Japan in the Summer Olympics.

The coaching staff is trying. Cora and hitting coach Tim Hyers have made it abundantly clear what they want to see: more contact.

“It starts with our pitch selection,” Hyers said. “We’re a team that’s aggressive. We swing the bats. And I think recently it’s caught up to us a little bit, expanding the zone and chase percentages are up.”

The Sox can’t scream it any louder. Now it’s on the players to react, adapt and save the season before it’s too late.

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