First pitch: End of the road for Red Sox

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First pitch: End of the road for Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Last month, when the Red Sox took two-of-three from the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, it appeared the series might act as a springboard for the final two months of the team's season.

Winning on the road against a quality opponent, and in doing so with two final at-bat wins, would be just the tonic the Sox needed. Or so went the thinking.

For a while, the theory seemed to work. The Sox returned home and promptly took another two-of-three from the Detroit Tigers. But then came a disastrous series in which the Sox dropped three-of-four to the lowly Minnesota Twins.

It got worse from there, as the Sox were outclassed by Texas at home before leaving for a 4-6 road trip that concluded Sunday night with another loss.

Since that series in the Bronx in late July, the Sox have gone 8-12, hardly the Big Bounce for which they were hoping.

This weekend's set in New York marks another schedule milestone: the Sox now have exactly 40 games remaining, pretty much one-quarter of the season left.

The web site coolstandings.com -- which runs over three million simulation games to approximate the real schedule -- estimates that it will take 86 wins to qualify for the second wild card in the American League.

That means that the Sox will have to win 27 of their remaining 40 games to reach 86 wins. The same team which is four games under .500 for the past 4 12 months will have to find a way to play .675 baseball for the final six weeks.

In other words: show's over.

That cold reality seemed to set over the Red Sox as an organization Sunday.

The Sox all but announced that Carl Crawford would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in his left elbow, sidelining him well into next spring.

For weeks, the Sox had maintained that the surgery wasn't as inevitable as it seemed, and that there were ways to "manage'' this. But more recently, it became obvious that wasn't going to happen.

When asked Saturday if Crawford's elbow had become worse, Cherington dodged the question. And when he spoke to reporters Sunday night about a planned Monday meeting with Crawford, there was resignation sprinkled in: Cherington talked of having taken a "conservative approach,'' but his language was couched in past tense.

For the first time, he framed the thinking by talking about the fact that Crawford is signed "long-term'' -- another five years after this one -- a sign that the Sox were thinking big-picture.

Perhaps if the Sox had had a better road trip -- 7-3 instead of 4-6; now at .500 instead of four games under -- there would have been some consideration for forging ahead, giving Crawford some rest here and there, but hanging on to the illusion of contention.

But that's gone now, flushed after a series that saw the Red Sox allow eight homers, but score just an average of three runs per game.

It isn't just that the Sox are, at 7 12 games back, farther back in the wild card standings as they've been all year. It's also the pile-up of teams ahead of them.

Five non-division leaders have superior records to the Sox today, and sure, with the unbalanced schedule and plenty of games between the contenders still to come, some of those teams have to lose every day.

But when the teams play one another, some have to win, too. And again, what evidence is there the Sox -- soon to be without Crawford and still, for the time being without David Ortiz -- are capable of winning better than two-thirds of their remaining games?

"A lot of things have to happen,'' said Josh Beckett of the team's fading playoff hopes.

And the chance that enough happen to catapault the Sox into the playoffs for the first time since 2009? Slim and none.

Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

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Ortiz, Red Sox express shock, sadness over Fernandez's death

Like the rest of the baseball world, the Red Sox expressed shock and sadness over the tragic death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who was killed in a boating accident in Miami. 

David Ortiz tweeted his thoughts before the game Sunday in St. Petersburg, where the Red Sox played the Tampa Bay Rays.

There was a moment of silence for Fernandez - who attended high school in the Tampa area after defecting from Cuba at 15 - before the game at Tropicana Field, and before all major league games on Sunday. 

There was to be on-field ceremony for Ortiz before his last game at the Trop, part of his retirement farewell tour, but it was canceled at Ortiz's request. A video tribute to Ortiz was shown during the game and the Rays gave Ortiz his retirement gifts privately.

Ortiz wiped away tears during the moment of silence. He wrote Fernandez's intitals and his uniform number 16 on his cap.

Fernandez had joked about how he wanted to give up a home run to Ortiz when he faced him as an N.L. pitcher in the All-Star Game this past July. 

"I told him yesterday that I am going to throw him three fastballs down the middle. I want to watch him hit a home run," Fernandez had said. 

Ortiz ended up walking against Fernandez, prompting this response from Big Papi:

First baseman Hanley Ramirez, who played for the Marlins, as well as other Red Sox players, also tweeted their reactions after hearing the news of Fernandez's death Sunday morning. 

Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

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Sunday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: JBJ sits, Vazquez catches

Jackie Bradley Jr. gets the day off and Christian Vazquez get the start at catcher as the Red Sox look to extend their winning streak to 11 games today against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg. 

Andrew Benintendi replaces Bradley in center, Chris Young is in left and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.84 ERA) is on the mound as the Red Sox close in on the A.L. East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is three with seven games left. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-6, 3.73) is on the mound for the Rays.

The lineups:  

RED SOX 
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez LF
Travis Shaw 3B
Chris Young LF
Andrew Benintendi CF
Christian Vazquez C
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Eduardo Rodriguez LHP 

RAYS
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SS
Mikey Mahtook RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Curt Casali DH
Luke Maile C
Richie Shaffer 1B
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Jake Odorizzi RHP