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.

Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Former Red Sox prospect Andy Marte killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.

Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.

Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.  

Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.  

Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
 

Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

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Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.

Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.

Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014. 

Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners. 

Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014. 

Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.