No white flag for depleted Red Sox
After losing Dustin Pedroia to DL again, team still believes in postseason chances
BOSTON -- The hot streak is coming.
Yes, you heard that right.
Before the Boston Red Sox were completely thrashed, losing 16-2 with their best pitcher on the mound to the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night at Fenway Park, general manager Theo Epstein said he still believes this club has what it takes to make a strong push in the American League East standings en route to a postseason berth.
"Yeah. We haven't gotten hot yet," Epstein said. "We've been looking forward to getting guys back, and now all of a sudden we're losing guys, so it makes it tough -- but absolutely. We're not 10 games out, and it's not the end of September. We have time."
"We go out every night feeling like we can win," Epstein added. "We've got to string together 15 out of 18 here somehow, and that will get us back into it."
The GM's statements came moments after the Red Sox placed second baseman Dustin Pedroia back on the disabled list with soreness in his fractured left foot prior to Friday night's game.
Epstein and manager Terry Francona are doing their best to keep morale intact. While it might be tough to be optimistic at this point, there's a realistic feeling in the clubhouse that the Red Sox can shock a lot of people.
After all, they've held on this long.
"We've shown it all year," outfielder Darnell McDonald said. "We really haven't had that hot streak of putting a bunch of games together like we know we can. Any time is possible. I don't think anyone is panicking right now.
"The good thing about this team is we've been able to bounce back from adversity all year. Hopefully we'll continue that. We're taking it one game at a time."
We already know Kevin Youkilis' season is over after he underwent surgery to repair a muscle tear in his right thumb. And there's a strong possibility Pedroia's season is over, too. Not to mention what this summer has been like for Jacoby Ellsbury, who also could be lost for the rest of the season.
The Red Sox have six games remaining with the second-place Tampa Bay Rays and six games remaining with the first-place New York Yankees. It'll be tough for the current Red Sox to make a serious push without the likes of Pedroia, Youkilis and Ellsbury.
"We'll be fine. Geez. Guys have stepped up. They have all year," Pedroia said. "I'm just one guy. We've had guys go down all year, and guys have been able to step up and help us win. We still have a great chance of getting into the playoffs and winning the whole thing."
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If the Red Sox are to stay in contention, they'll have to rely on starting pitching.
Red Sox ace Jon Lester took the ball Friday and allowed a career-high nine runs in only two innings pitched, the shortest outing of his career.
"I didn't have anything from pitch one," he said. "I dug myself in a hole and couldn't get out of it. I've had worse. I've had better."
Given the timing and the 6 1/2 games the Red Sox now trail in the AL East standings (they are 5 1/2 games behind the Rays in the wild card race), Lester's subpar outing was a big disappointment.
"It's tough. We're getting down to [crunch] time, and [my outing] doesn't really help us," Lester said. "It's going to be a long five days to get back up there and hopefully do a little bit better."
The loss is still going to be difficult to overcome without Pedroia in the lineup.
Pedroia had never looked dejected in his baseball career. But the Red Sox second baseman sat in the dugout during batting practice Friday afternoon at Fenway Park and appeared devastated by the news that he had to be placed back on the 15-day disabled list.
He was activated Tuesday after spending nearly two months on the DL after fracturing his left foot, and he played only two games, but it didn't take him long to realize he wouldn't be effective no matter how hard he worked to return to the lineup.
"That's a natural feeling," Francona said of Pedroia. "He just spent seven weeks trying to get back, and then he plays two games and has a setback. I'm sure he's probably devastated. All he wants to do is help us win. He lives for that. I'm sure he's upset."
So what's the timetable now for Pedroia's return?
"When it heals, he'll play," Francona said.
That very well might be next season.
It's a safe bet the Red Sox will be scoreboard-watching during the next 15 days. And if by that time it seems inevitable that Boston has no shot at earning a postseason berth, the club could pull the plug on Pedroia's season to not risk the All-Star's career.
Pedroia was on pace for a .300 average, 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 90 RBIs this season. Without that production in the lineup for an extended amount of time, Boston's postseason chances dwindle. So many times this season, the Red Sox have had to rely on the Darnell McDonalds, Daniel Navas and Bill Halls of the world to stay in contention.
Epstein plans for such cases during each offseason by signing quality utility and bench players while still developing the prospects at the minor league levels. The Red Sox pride themselves in drafting, signing, developing and promoting their homegrown talent.
Because of injuries to Ellsbury and fellow outfielder Mike Cameron, Ryan Kalish has been needed to play a big role since being called up from Pawtucket on July 31. On Friday, Yamaico Navarro played in his first major league game after being called up from Pawtucket to replace Pedroia on the roster.
"That's what we do; that's the organization," Epstein said. "Sometimes you see it more at the major league level in the years when you have a lot of injuries. If [prospects] weren't up here, they would still be developing in the upper minors and getting ready for future contributions. You like to see some of the successes and you work hard to try to make sure as many guys make it as possible."
After Friday's crushing defeat, the Red Sox have only 39 games remaining in the regular season. Boston has not given up. No matter how long the odds appear to be, the Red Sox aren't about to wave a white flag and call it a season.
Even without Pedroia and Youkilis.
"You go as hard as you can for as long as you can until they tell you to stop, until they make you stop," Francona said. "Then it's time to take a deep breath whether you win or lose. Not now; it's not going to help."
If the Red Sox can somehow make a run to reach the postseason, it would be a quite an accomplishment given the injuries they've endured this season.
"We really don't need to talk about it; it'll be a really good feeling," Epstein said.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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