With the Red Sox entering play Thursday with a record of 21-26, the blame can go any which direction.

Ben Cherington did a poor job constructing the team, the pitching isn’t cutting it with a 5.17 starters' ERA, the offense isn’t get it done - averaging 2.8 runs per game in the month of May. All of those are viable, but the biggest issue is that the core of their lineup isn’t getting it done.

David Ortiz, Mike Napoli, Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval are hitting a combined .235 on the year. This is a major problem considering they are the team’s No. 3-6 hitters, the meat of the lineup.

"We got to keep putting ourselves in position to score," Red Sox leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia said to reporters in Minnesota this week. "We keep saying that, but it seems like we're one swing away every game and that swing is coming."

Napoli (although he had a monster homestand last week) is the worst of them all, batting just .208 with 38 strikeouts in 149 plate appearances. Sunday was the first time all season his batting average was over .200.

Ramirez got off to a hot start to the season, hitting 10 homers in the first month of the season, but then he suffered a shoulder injury after running into the left field wall at Fenway Park during the last week of April. He missed just three games, but he hasn’t been the same since his return. The left fielder hasn’t been able to pull the ball with the authority he was doing prior to the injury. For the month of May, Ramirez is batting just .210 with three extra-base hits (no home runs) and 1 RBI in 87 plate appearances.

“I mean, what I learned through the years, man, that’s the season, that’s how it goes, up and down, up and down,” he said to reporters this week. “One day you’re hot, one day you go in a slump. You’ve got to try to stay there, fighting every day til you get hot again.

Ortiz is hitting .216 with six homers and 18 RBIs. The most worrisome thing has been his performance against lefties, as the designated hitter is just 6-for-57 (.105) against them this year.

Overall, Sandoval is better than the other three, batting .265, but like Ortiz, he has struggled against left-handers. He’s hitting just .114 against them, but three of his five hits have come in the last four games when the switch-hitter has hit left-handed against lefties.

These four players were expected to carry the offense some said had the chance to score 900 runs, but through 47 games, Mookie Betts leads the team in RBIs with 24 – not a good sign for a team when the RBI leader is the leadoff hitter.

As the Red Sox look to change their recent stretch of poor performances, it all starts with the core of their lineup, because they are not going anywhere without these guys producing.