McAdam: Sox almost facing must-win

191542.jpg

McAdam: Sox almost facing must-win

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It was supposed to be the final game of the next-to-last road trip of the regular season, no more or less meaningful than the 75 other road games they've already played.

Instead, after a crushing, 6-5, extra-inning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night, it's become awfully close to a must-win for the Red Sox.

Coming into this series, the Red Sox needed one win against the hard-charging Rays. One win Friday or Saturday would have halted the Rays' momentum. The math would have meant that the best the Rays could hope to make up during the series was a net improvement of one game in standings.

That wouldn't have been enough, with just over two weeks to go in the season. A six-game difference in the loss column would have been too imposing.

But not now. Thanks to Red Sox losses Friday and Saturday, the Red Sox have lost four in a row, six out of seven, nine of 12. They have seen their margin for the wild card shaved to four games.

What they've done, really, is held the door open for the Rays and invited them to join the playoff push.

This is the invitation the Rays have been waiting for all season. They did nothing at the trade deadline, hamstrung by the improbability of making up all that ground in the final two months, and, as always, payroll limitations.

September was going to be all about the Red Sox and Yankees, jocking for position, angling for the division title, with the loser taking the wild card spot.

Not anymore. It's close to becoming a three-team race. There's still time for the Rays, who have four games remaining with the Sox next weekend at Fenway and seven with the Yankees.

The Yankees, too, suddenly have problems of their own, having lost four straight. If the Red Sox had merely played .500 or so through the first six games of this road trip, they likely would be tied or leading the division.

But that's a discussion for another time, because winning the division is, suddenly, far from the Red Sox' biggest priority. The biggest challenge is making sure they get to the playoffs at all.

Two weeks ago, that sort of statement would have been silly. Back then, seeding was the lone concern. That, and trying to decide whether the Sox would be better off playing Texas or Detroit in the Division Series.

That seems like a long time ago now. Injuries have torn apart the rotation and robbed the Sox, for now, of their cleanup hitter.

They're not sure who's going to start for them three games from now, and they don't know who's their best option for the seventh inning.

In the big picture, however, the problems are simpler. One more loss here would change the face of the final two weeks, and turn September from tune-up time to survival mode.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

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

cleveland-indians-andy-marte-killed-12217.jpg

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

kansas-city-royals-yordano-ventura-killed-12217.jpg

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.