First Pitch: Phils show Sox just how bad things could be

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First Pitch: Phils show Sox just how bad things could be

SEATTLE - They have been without two lineup regulars, side-by-side in the field, since the start of the year, and then lost their most established starter to the disabled list.

They had hoped they could hold on, hold out, until the injured players returned. By midseason, they thought, the return of the injured regulars would serve as a second-half booster shot, the equivalent of adding two All-Stars around the trade deadline.

They sputtered for a while, but all along, the suspicion was they would hang around, figure it out somehow and remain on the periphery of a crowded division race, close enough so when they got healthy, they could make their move.

Now, it's time to acknowledge that this will not happen. So much for Plan B. So much for waiting for the calvary to arrive.

It's too late. They can't make progress in the standings and if help arrives, it will be too late for 2012.

The Red Sox?

Nope.

Try the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies lost again Sunday, dropping nine games under .500 and 11 12 games out of first place. They're lodged in last place in the National League East.

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley could return next week and play like it was 2008 all over again -- Howard recovered from his torn Achilles, Utley having overcome his now-chronic knee issues -- and it wouldn't matter.

The Phillies seem to be slowly acknowledging this basic fact. On Friday, they traded Jim Thome to Baltimore. Sunday, they shipped reliever Chad Qualls to the Yankees. And, in the surest sign yet that the Phils are readying the white flag, they are said to be open to offers on free-agent-to-be Cole Hamels.

All of which serves as a reminder that all is not lost for the Red Sox.

True, they are still without Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury -- for these purposes, Boston's equivalent of Howard and Utley -- but both are getting closer to returning.

Crawford is due in Boston Monday for a checkup, and is then scheduled to go somewhere other that Fort Myers to continue his rehab assignment. It's possible he could rejoin the lineup in Tampa Bay when the Sox open the second half of the season. Ellsbury should also be back later this month.

There are issues, still, to be sure. Over the weekend, the Red Sox needed extra innings to get a split against the lowly Mariners.

The pitching was superb for Boston, even if it did come against a lineup that has battled to hit .200 at Safeco Field this season. In the four games, the Red Sox allowed a grand total of five runs. The scores in the series looked like a Stanley Cup playoff series in which both teams were using the trap: 1-0; 5-0, 3-2; and 2-1.

But Boston's own offense wasn't much better, raising questions about the lineup's consistency. The Sox were a pitiful 3-for-27 with runners in scoring position in the four games. Of the nine runs the Sox scored, six were the result of homers, including all five runs in Friday's shutout victory.

The same offense that had arrived in Seattle averaging 5.29 runs per game this season was averaging just 1.75 runs through the first 36 innings.

Help is on the way, however, in the persons of Crawford, Ellsbury and, soon after, Andrew Bailey. At a time when Felix Doubront seems to be faltering, Franklin Morales and Aaron Cook have peaked, providing rotation depth.

As the fourth month of play gets underway and the exact halfway point in the schedule arrives Tuesday night, the Red Sox are a half-game out of both second place in their division and the second wild-card spot.

And unlike in Philadelphia, it is not too late.

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.