Time for Sox is now

Underachievers are at crossroads

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 27, 2012
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NEW YORK — That the Red Sox are playing the Yankees this weekend is beside the point to Dustin Pedroia. As much as he has come to enjoy the rivalry, Pedroia knows the Red Sox need victories regardless of the opposition.

At 49-50, the Red Sox are in last place in the American League East, an embarrassing 10½ games behind the first-place Yankees. And while baseball’s new playoff system offers the life preserver of a second wild-card berth, there are six teams ahead of the Red Sox in that race.

The Sox have lost five of their last six games and 13 of the last 20. With 63 games left to play, the Red Sox have arrived at a crossroads. Either they start winning and become relevant or stand as one of the most expensive flops in history.

“Every game is crucial. We’re at a point now where we need to win,” Pedroia said. “That’s basically it. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. It’s a tough stretch, we’re playing some of the best teams. We’ve got to play well.”

The Sox play three games against the Yankees then return home for 10 games, including three each against the Tigers and Rangers.

Meanwhile, the nonwaiver trade deadline is Tuesday afternoon. A poor performance this weekend could spur ownership into ordering general manager Ben Cherington to sell off some veterans and start the process of preparing for 2013. While that seems unlikely, it’s far more likely than it was a week ago.

Cody Ross has been around teams that dreaded the trade deadline. He never expected that would be the case when he signed with the Red Sox.

“We think more about adding than subtracting,” Ross said. “But it’s a veteran enough group to realize there are always rumors. It used to affect me a little bit, but it doesn’t anymore.

“I don’t think it affects a lot of us. On certain teams I’ve been on in the past, guys would sort of panic and couldn’t wait for it to be over. But I don’t really get that feeling here. We still believe in ourselves and the organization believes we can push through.”

The Red Sox, a team source said, have no plans to part with their better prospects to bolster a team with fading hopes. But conversely, giving up on the season is not yet being considered.

“It’s up to us. I don’t think Ben’s going to get any hits,” Pedroia said. “I don’t know if we’re going to make any trades. They don’t tell us anything. It’s above our pay grade. We’ve got our team. We feel like we have a great group. We just have to go out there and win.

“We have to be consistent. That’s basically it.”

That has proven difficult for this group. The Red Sox have not been better than five games over .500 and have yet to climb any higher in the standings than third place.

Of the 63 games remaining, 42 are against teams with winning records. Of those, 27 are against five of the top teams in the AL: the Yankees, Rangers, Angels, Tigers, and Athletics.

The Sox also have seven more games left on the road than they do at home.

The Red Sox haven’t had a team with a losing record since 1997. The remaining schedule suggests that could change.

“We understand what’s ahead. But we can’t think that way, we have to go day by day. It will definitely be a test,” Ross said. “You try not to think that way and put pressure on yourself. But we realize it’s a big series and we need to play well.

“Everybody in here has to do their part, though. We all get that. It’s not going to be just one guy who takes over. It sounds cliché, but it’s the truth.”

The Sox were hoping the return of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford from long stays on the disabled list would be reflected in their record. But that hasn’t been the case. Ellsbury has hit .327 since returning, but the team is 6-6 since he missed three months with a partially dislocated right shoulder.

Crawford is 7 of 32 in his first nine games of the season and is hitless in his last 17 at-bats. Manager Bobby Valentine has been taking the former Gold Glove winner out of left field late in games to protect his injured left elbow.

“Maybe it takes a little time for everybody to settle in,” Pedroia said. “But we can’t afford to wait any longer.”

The Yankees are coming off a 2-5 road trip to Oakland and Seattle and the loss of third baseman Alex Rodriguez to a broken left hand. But they obtained outfielder Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners on Monday and he will make his debut in pinstripes Friday.

The Red Sox are 1-5 against the Yankees this season.

“I think it’s going to be a fun series, I really do,” Ross said. “This is a good way for us to get something started, right?”

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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