The Week Ahead: Time of reckoning for Red Sox

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There’s no other way to put it: It was a miserable week for the Boston Red Sox.

They lost six straight, including four to the Yankees, falling 6 ½ games back in the AL East, and into a tie with the Texas Rangers for the wild card lead.

Their offense took a vacation. Their bullpen, showing signs of wear and tear, could use some help. And their big offseason hope for the rotation, John Smoltz, ended his time in Boston looking like a shadow of his once-great self.

This week, it doesn’t get any easier.

The Red Sox travel home for a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers, leaders of the AL Central. Boston is 3-0 against Detroit this season, winning those games by a combined score of 21-9. Of course, the Red Sox were 8-0 against the Yankees before the four-day disaster in the Bronx.

After Detroit, Boston travels to Texas to take on the Rangers. Texas enters the week 62-48 and tied with Boston for the wild-card lead. The Rangers lead both leagues with 169 home runs (40 more than Boston) and have found enough pitching to stay in the playoff race.

Derek Holland, the promising rookie the Rangers wouldn’t part with at the trade deadline, is coming off a three-hit shutout of the Angels. He’ll face the Red Sox on Saturday.

Through the recent slump, the Red Sox have kept their composure. Terry Francona, not one to yell and scream, says there’s no reason to panic.

“The energy level is there. We’ve just been putting up zeroes for a lot of innings now. I think sometimes you balance that. If I thought the effort was terrible I’d say something, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

That may be true, but for Red Sox fans, if this week doesn’t go well, everything could change.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Tigers at Red Sox, Aug. 10-13: Boston will break in Junichi Tazawa on Tuesday, giving him his first big league start in what has becoming a most important series for the Red Sox.

Dodgers at Giants, Aug. 10-12: They’re hated rivals, and for the first time in awhile, this series has playoff implications. The Giants have crept within 5½ games of the NL West-leading Dodgers, and are tied with Colorado for the NL wild card.

Rays at Angels, Aug. 10-12: Tampa remains in the wild card hunt, but the AL West-leading Angels, who are hitting .289 as a team, present a serious challenge.

Phillies at Cubs, Aug. 11-13: After rising to the NL Central lead, the Cubs have taken a hit of late. Two games behind the Cardinals, Chicago must take advantage of the struggling Phillies, who have dropped seven of 10.

Red Sox at Rangers, Aug. 14-16: Neither team has given up in their respective division races, but this series could go a long way toward deciding who takes the AL wild card.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Tigers at Red Sox (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:05 p.m.: Phillies at Cubs (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Indians at Twins (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Phillies at Braves (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.:  Giants at Mets (FOX)
Sunday, 2:05 p.m.: Red Sox at Rangers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Phillies at Braves (ESPN)
*Check local listings

If you Twitter, you can find me at @bharks.

Must-Click Link: The Turbulent Final Year of Yordano Ventura’s Life

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals reacts in the sixth inning while taking on the Toronto Blue Jays in game six of the 2015 MLB American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 23, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Kansas City Star has covered the death of Yordano Ventura and its aftermath in a thorough, thoughtful, respectful and admirable fashion and it has all been compelling to read, even if it’s often been difficult to read. Their latest story may be the most difficult, though it is nonetheless essential.

It covers the final year of Ventura’s life which, sadly, was tumultuous. He had become estranged from his family. He was married to a woman who, at the time of the ceremony, was still married to her first husband and whose family, allegedly, later made threats against Ventura that we’re only now learning about. This includes allegations of armed men accosting Ventura at his home near the Royals spring training facility a year ago. An incident which led to him missing time due to “flulike symptoms,” but which, in reality, caused him considerable mental distress. He was again threatened, it is claimed, in Kansas City during the season. There is also an allegation that Ventura attempted suicide via an overdose of Benadryl, though that is disputed.

Beyond that, there is an arc to the end of Ventura’s life which sounds unfortunately familiar. It’s a story of a young man whose life changed dramatically in a very, very short period of time and who struggled at times to process the changes. Were it not for a fateful drive on a dark and winding road one night in late January, they all could’ve been things that, as his career matured, he could look back on as learning experiences. Now that he’s gone, however, they form the final, tragic chapter.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.