The Boston Red Sox had an opportunity to gain vital ground on the Houston Astros in the American League wild-card race during their three-game series at Fenway Park.

Instead, the Red Sox took three massive steps backward.

The Astros put the finishing touches on a sweep of the Red Sox on Wednesday, earning a 7-4 victory that pushes Boston to the fringe of the playoff picture. The Red Sox are now 6 1/2 games back of the Texas Rangers for the third and final wild-card spot with 28 games left to play.

And Boston, which lost five of six games on its homestand, certainly feels the ramifications of their poor play as of late.

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“We knew we had a tough challenge ahead of us,” Kutter Crawford told reporters, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “And losing all those games, it’s kind of a kick in the gut, really.”

Crawford was just the latest starting pitcher to struggle for the Red Sox. He lasted a mere 2 2/3 innings in the series finale against the Astros, surrendering seven runs, six earned, to go along with seven hits.

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The outing from Crawford has become all too familiar for Boston. For the fifth straight game the Red Sox didn’t have a starting pitcher go past five innings.

That took its toll on the Red Sox and what ultimately might have sealed their fate even with a month left to go in the regular season.

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“A combination of 16 days and not going deep into games,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “They’re trying. They’re grinding. They’re doing their best. It just didn’t happen in this stretch. We got the off day tomorrow and hopefully from Friday on, we can reset and go.”

Boston needs a big reset if it has any hope of making a playoff push. The Red Sox will try to do so first against the lowly Kansas City Royals with the two sides opening a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium starting Friday.

They have another stiff test after that with 13 straight games against divisional opponents.

Featured image via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images