Xander Bogaerts hugs Dustin Pedroia in the dugout after the Houston Astros eliminated the Red Sox in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Monday. Now, the Red Sox start figuring out what comes next.

BOSTON — In the quiet of the Boston Red Sox clubhouse, players tried to figure out how it ended so quickly.

Yes, the Houston Astros were a better team. But Boston was putting up a fight, as it did in Sunday’s win.

“We were grinding things out like we always do,” Andrew Benintendi said.

And Benintendi looked to be the game’s hero, swatting a two-run homer off the one-and-only Justin Verlander to give Boston a 3-2 lead.

“Slider. Put a good swing on it,” Benintendi said, his voice subdued, not one bit of satisfaction in his home run.

There would be no celebrating.

Applaud Chris Sale for his gutsy relief effort, but he will be known more for giving up the tying run in the eighth inning.

“I felt good,” Sale said. “Felt strong throughout. Didn’t get it done.”

But Sale, the veteran who just experienced his first playoff, figures he will get another chance.

“It’s hard not to be optimistic about this team for a long time,” Sale said.

And maybe he’s right. If Boston won had Monday, we’d be praising the explosion of youth – the home runs from Xander Bogaerts (who’s 25), Benintendi (23) and Rafael Devers (20).

Mookie Betts, who just turned 25 on Saturday, liked this Red Sox team, but knew it fell short of expectations.

“We got to score more runs,” Betts said. “(Houston) did a great job pitching. But we have to hit more.

“We showed we could do it. But we have to be more consistent.”

This makes two straight exits in the ALDS, though this one featured at least one win. But the 2016 playoff experience was supposed to make Boston better in 2017.

“I don’t know what it takes (to get to the next level),” Betts said. “We did better this year than last … as long as we continue to put ourselves in this position, something’s going to break through.”

Manager John Farrell did not feel ready to reflect on the season.

“You go 100 mph and then all of a sudden it feels like you face plant in a wall when the season’s over,” he said.

Despite being the only Red Sox manager to win three division titles (2013, ’16 and ’17), there is talk that Farrell’s job is in jeopardy (granted, most of that speculation comes from the media, but it’s out there).

Farrell was asked if he expected to be back. He wasn’t joining in that conversation.

“We just walked off the field 10 minutes ago,” Farrell said.

You never know with this Boston ownership group – the gang that brought Bobby Valentine to Boston.

The decision-making appears to be in the hands of Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations. Dombrowski obviously has his thoughts on Farrell, and hopefully that decision on next year is clarified soon.

“I thought John did a great job,” veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We won the division. There was never any quit in this team. We dealt with a lot. (But) I know we didn’t achieve our goals …

“We were right there with (Houston). Very close. A couple balls here and there. That part hurts the most. To come this close, it hurts.”

Boston’s problem was the routs it experienced in the first two games to Houston. Those weren’t close.

Boston did fight back. But it did not have enough muscle to fight with.

Pedroia, 34, is always full of fight, but you wonder how much more Boston can depend on him. His defense is sound, but he is not so much clutch with the bat. He went 0 for 4 Monday and was 2 for 15 in the series, after going 2 for 12 in last year’s ALDS.

And then there is Pedroia’s health. A sore left knee limited him to 105 games this year. He plans to see a doctor Tuesday. Major surgery might be the best option, with a long recovery time.

There is also David Price and his health issues. Will his touchy forearm and elbow allow him to start for a whole season?

These are questions Dombrowski has to worry about as he begins making plans for 2018.

But one obvious part of that plan is Devers, the kid who began the year in Portland and then came to Boston with poise and power the Red Sox desperately need.

This was Devers’ first playoff. He was disappointed, but still thrilled to be here.

“It’s cool because you’re one of the few teams that can play in the postseason,” Devers said through a translator.

Now what?

“Get ready for next season,” Devers said, “so I can help the team win a championship next year.”

Got to like the kid.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

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Twitter: @ClearTheBases