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.

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.

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.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.