Loss of Youkilis adds another bump to a rough road

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The Red Sox might not be doomed yet, but the team with the eighth-best record in baseball just became an even bigger long shot to play in the postseason after losing Kevin Youkilis to a season-ending thumb injury.
In the midst of a third straight wildly productive season, Youkilis was hitting .307/.411/.564 up until hurting his thumb Monday. He ranked fourth in the league with a 975 OPS, and it wasn’t as though Fenway was really dragging his numbers up: his road OPS stood at 967.
What the Red Sox desperately need now is for Mike Lowell, a player whom the team gladly would have given away had anyone wanted to take on a significant portion of his salary, to come through with the kind of big finish that may make him put off thoughts of retirement.
After spending six weeks on the DL, Lowell homered on the first pitch he saw Tuesday against the Indians. His .214/.305/.381 line in 84 at-bats for the season is practically irrelevant, considering that he hasn’t seen steady action at any point. Still, even if he bounces back to his 2009 level of performance — he hit .290/.337/.474 in 445 at-bats — it’ll be a big drop off from what Youk has provided.
Heading into Thursday night’s action, the Red Sox are seven games behind the Yankees and 6 1/2 games behind the Twins for a postseason spot. We’ll ignore the AL Central loser for now and assume that if the Red Sox can pass one of them, they’re in.
The Yankees (67-40) currently have 55 games left, while the Rays (67-41) and Red Sox (71-47) have 54. Let’s say one of the AL East leaders falls off and plays just .500 ball for the rest of the year: 27-28 for the Yankees, 27-27 for the Rays. That would put the second-place team at 94-68. To match that, the Red Sox would have to go 33-21, a .611 winning percentage, which is significantly better than their current .565 mark.
Realistically, both the Yankees and Rays figure to play at least .550 ball for the rest of the year. They’re currently at .626 and .620, respectively. At .550, the Yankees and Rays would finish 97-65. That’s probably where the Red Sox need to be to have a shot. To do that, they’d have to go 36-18, which is .667 ball.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. The Red Sox did go 36-18 over the course of 54 games from April 23-June 19 and from May 5-July 3 (obviously, a lot of that was the same stretch). But it is a long shot, and if neither the Yankees nor Rays hit a dry spell, there just won’t be any chance at all.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”