Red Sox

First pitch: End of the road for Red Sox

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First pitch: End of the road for Red Sox

NEW YORK -- Last month, when the Red Sox took two-of-three from the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, it appeared the series might act as a springboard for the final two months of the team's season.

Winning on the road against a quality opponent, and in doing so with two final at-bat wins, would be just the tonic the Sox needed. Or so went the thinking.

For a while, the theory seemed to work. The Sox returned home and promptly took another two-of-three from the Detroit Tigers. But then came a disastrous series in which the Sox dropped three-of-four to the lowly Minnesota Twins.

It got worse from there, as the Sox were outclassed by Texas at home before leaving for a 4-6 road trip that concluded Sunday night with another loss.

Since that series in the Bronx in late July, the Sox have gone 8-12, hardly the Big Bounce for which they were hoping.

This weekend's set in New York marks another schedule milestone: the Sox now have exactly 40 games remaining, pretty much one-quarter of the season left.

The web site coolstandings.com -- which runs over three million simulation games to approximate the real schedule -- estimates that it will take 86 wins to qualify for the second wild card in the American League.

That means that the Sox will have to win 27 of their remaining 40 games to reach 86 wins. The same team which is four games under .500 for the past 4 12 months will have to find a way to play .675 baseball for the final six weeks.

In other words: show's over.

That cold reality seemed to set over the Red Sox as an organization Sunday.

The Sox all but announced that Carl Crawford would undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery in his left elbow, sidelining him well into next spring.

For weeks, the Sox had maintained that the surgery wasn't as inevitable as it seemed, and that there were ways to "manage'' this. But more recently, it became obvious that wasn't going to happen.

When asked Saturday if Crawford's elbow had become worse, Cherington dodged the question. And when he spoke to reporters Sunday night about a planned Monday meeting with Crawford, there was resignation sprinkled in: Cherington talked of having taken a "conservative approach,'' but his language was couched in past tense.

For the first time, he framed the thinking by talking about the fact that Crawford is signed "long-term'' -- another five years after this one -- a sign that the Sox were thinking big-picture.

Perhaps if the Sox had had a better road trip -- 7-3 instead of 4-6; now at .500 instead of four games under -- there would have been some consideration for forging ahead, giving Crawford some rest here and there, but hanging on to the illusion of contention.

But that's gone now, flushed after a series that saw the Red Sox allow eight homers, but score just an average of three runs per game.

It isn't just that the Sox are, at 7 12 games back, farther back in the wild card standings as they've been all year. It's also the pile-up of teams ahead of them.

Five non-division leaders have superior records to the Sox today, and sure, with the unbalanced schedule and plenty of games between the contenders still to come, some of those teams have to lose every day.

But when the teams play one another, some have to win, too. And again, what evidence is there the Sox -- soon to be without Crawford and still, for the time being without David Ortiz -- are capable of winning better than two-thirds of their remaining games?

"A lot of things have to happen,'' said Josh Beckett of the team's fading playoff hopes.

And the chance that enough happen to catapault the Sox into the playoffs for the first time since 2009? Slim and none.

MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

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MLB will institute rules to pick up pace, with or without players' agreement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

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Corey Kluber beats Chris Sale for American League Cy Young

Max Scherzer heard his name and thrust his arms in the air, shouting and smiling big before turning to kiss his wife.

Corey Kluber, on the other hand, gulped once and blinked.

Two aces, two different styles - and now another Cy Young Award for each.

The animated Scherzer of the Washington Nationals coasted to his third Cy Young, winning Wednesday for the second straight year in the National League. He breezed past Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, drawing 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Kluber's win was even more of a runaway. The Cleveland Indians ace took 28 first-place votes, easily outpacing Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox for his second AL Cy Young.

Scherzer yelled "yes!" when his award was announced on MLB Network, a reaction in keeping with his expressive reputation. He showed that intensity often this year, whether he was cursing under his breath like a madman during his delivery or demanding - also with expletives - that manager Dusty Baker leave him in the game.

Just a little different than the pitcher they call "Klubot." Kluber was stoic as ever when announced as the AL winner. He swallowed hard but otherwise didn't react, only showing the hint of a smile moments later when answering questions.

Not that he wasn't thrilled.

"Winning a second one maybe, for me personally, kind of validates the first one," Kluber said.

Scherzer's win moves him into rare company. He's the 10th pitcher with at least three Cy Youngs, and among the other nine, only Kershaw and Roger Clemens aren't in the Hall of Fame.

"That's why I'm drinking a lot of champagne tonight," Scherzer said.

Scherzer earned the NL honor last year with Washington and the 2013 American League prize with Detroit.

"This one is special," he said. "When you start talking about winning three times, I can't even comprehend it at this point."

Scherzer was 16-6 with a career-best 2.51 ERA this year. The 33-year-old righty struck out a league-leading 268 for the NL East champion Nationals, and in an era noted for declining pitcher durability, he eclipsed 200 innings for the fifth straight season. He had to overcome a variety of ailments to get there, and Washington's training staff was high on his thank-you list.

"Everybody had a role in keeping me out on the field," he said. "I'm very thankful for all their hard work."

Kershaw has won three NL Cy Youngs and was the last pitcher to win back-to-back. He was 18-4 with a league-best 2.31 ERA and 202 strikeouts. This is his second runner-up finish. Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals finished third.

Kluber missed a month of the season with back pain and still easily won the AL award over Sale and third-place finisher Luis Severino of the New York Yankees. Kluber led the majors with a 2.25 ERA, and his 18 wins tied for the most in baseball. He added to the Cy Young he won with the Indians in 2014 and is the 19th pitcher to win multiple times.

The 31-year-old Kluber was especially dominant down the stretch, closing out the season by going 11-1 to help Cleveland win the AL Central. He and Minnesota's Ervin Santana tied for the major league lead with five complete games - nobody else had more than two. Kluber also led the majors with 8.0 wins above replacement, per baseball-reference.com.

Kluber and Scherzer both had rough outings in the playoffs. Kluber gave up nine runs over two starts in an AL Division Series against the Yankees, and Scherzer blew a save in the decisive Game 5 of an NL Division Series against the Cubs.

Scherzer said he couldn't even watch the League Championship Series, although he did tune in for the World Series.

"That will eat at me this whole offseason," he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the postseason began.

The final BBWAA honors will come Thursday when the MVP awards are announced in the AL and NL.

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