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.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.