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.

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

Porcello loses 10th game as Red Sox fall to Twins, 4-1

BOSTON -- Twins rookie lefty Adalberto Mejia is feeling more comfortable each time he takes the mound.

Mejia pitched 5 2/3 innings in his second straight scoreless start, Max Kepler hit a two-run homer and Minnesota rebounded from two consecutive losses against Boston to beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Wednesday night.

"He did a nice job," Twins manager Paul Molitor said about Mejia. "He had to kind of battle. It's kind of becoming a little bit of his MO to burn through pitches, but similarly to his last start, he kept walking off the field with zeros."

Kepler also had an RBI single, and Miguel Sano added an RBI double to help the Twins improve to 24-11 on the road.

Mejia (3-3) allowed five hits, struck out three and walked one in his 11th career start. On Friday night at Cleveland, he held the Indians to two hits over five innings in a victory.

"I feel calmer every time I'm out there," he said through a translator. "I think that's why I did better."

Brandon Kintzler got the final three outs for his 21st save.

Boston starter Rick Porcello (4-10) gave up four runs on six hits in six innings, striking out six and walking two. It was his 14th straight start going at least six innings, the AL's longest active streak.

"It's not like they're beating the cover off the ball," Porcello said. "It's just a couple things here and there that I've got to clean up. I'm not making excuses for myself. I definitely hold myself accountable for the loss tonight."

Red Sox manager John Farrell was back in the dugout after serving a one-game suspension Tuesday for poking umpire Bill Miller in the chest during an argument Saturday.

The Red Sox stranded 11 baserunners, and at least one in every inning. Farrell thought his team may have been pressing a bit.

"I thought there were times we might have expanded the strike zone a little bit, trying to make something happen," he said.

With Minnesota leading 2-0 in the sixth, Kepler lined his homer off the back of Boston's bullpen.

In the first, the Twins scored a pair of two-out runs when Sano hit his RBI double down the third-base line and scored on Kepler's broken-bat single.

Xander Bogaerts drove in Boston's run with a bases-loaded grounder in the seventh.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Twins: LHP Glen Perkins resumed throwing Tuesday after a setback last week following offseason shoulder surgery. Molitor said the club is still formulating a plan for him. He's been sidelined all season and pitched in just two games last year.

Red Sox: DH Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game after getting hit by a pitch on the left knee Sunday. "He'll go through a full workday today," Farrell said. "He's feeling improved."

MATCHES OWN RECORD

Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia played his 98th consecutive error-less game, matching the best mark in club history he set for a second baseman from 2009-10.

LOOKS FAMILIAR

This season has started like 2015 for Porcello, the AL's reigning Cy Young Award winner.

Two years ago when he struggled badly, the righty lost nine of his initial 13 decisions and finished 9-15 with a 4.92 ERA.

ROSTER MOVE

Minnesota right-hander Phil Hughes was activated from the 10-day disabled list and LHP Craig Breslow was put on with rib cage soreness.

Hughes had been on the DL since complaining of a "dead feeling" in his pitching shoulder on May 21. He allowed one run in three innings during three rehabilitation appearances in Triple-A.

Molitor plans to use him out of the bullpen.

UP NEXT

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (4-5, 6.23 ERA) looks to continue his success in Fenway Park in the series finale Thursday. He's allowed only one run over 15 innings in two career starts.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (2-2, 4.76) has won his last five decisions against Minnesota, posting a 1.84 ERA.