When Dustin Pedroia went down with a broken foot in San Francisco and a diagnosis of six weeks off, all of Red Sox nation quickly plucked the calendar off the wall and thumbed through to the beginning of August.

The math brought you right to this weekend’s series with the Yankees, providing a glimmer of hope that the spark-plug second baseman could return in time to help save the season.

Unfortunately, Kevin Youkilis’ thumb had other ideas.

Youkilis tore a muscle in his thumb this week, and will require season-ending surgery.

Never before has such a phrase been more fitting. Youkilis’ surgery will almost certainly end this season.

For the Red Sox.

Boston has survived a remarkable rash of injuries with impressive performances up and down the roster and downright uplifting debuts from the likes of Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava and, most recently, Ryan Kalish (who appears to be carving himself a spot on the roster for the next several seasons).

But the team remains more than five games out of a playoff spot, despite treading water at a rate sure to make any lifeguard gush. Victor Martinez returned to provide some punch, but with both Youkilis and Pedroia out of the lineup right now and the prospect of Youk being gone until next March, things are looking remarkably bleak.

The Sox were having a hard time making up ground with Youk in the lineup. With him on the shelf, it becomes a near impossible task. Thankfully the Red Sox botched the Mike Lowell situation so badly they still had him lying around, and he’ll be an acceptable replacement at the dish. But nobody can bring the combination of offensive and defensive prowess Youkilis possesses, and his infectious fire will be even harder to replace.

Youkilis has quietly turned himself into one of the best players in the league. He can play two positions at a Gold Glove level, can hit just about anywhere in the lineup—including the cleanup spot, which he has manned well all year—and will generally finish in the .300-30-100 range.

And he’s also proven to be remarkably durable. He rarely misses time, and the first prolonged stretch without him in the starting lineup is going to be a painful test for the Sox.

It’s been a bizarre season for the Sox, one that has drawn repeated comparisons to the 2006 campaign that saw a rash of injuries, few reinforcements at the trading deadline and a pair of devastating injuries to Jason Varitek and Jonathan Papelbon that ruined things down the stretch.

Those comparisons continue this weekend. It was in August of 2006 that the Yankees strode into Fenway Park and streamrolled their way to a devastating and now infamous five-game sweep that put the lights out.

The Yankees have a chance to do the same this weekend.

And even if the series doesn’t result in a sweep, the Sox are going to have to come up with something of a miracle to avoid fading to black again.

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