It seems like just yesterday the Boston Red Sox were the most hyped team in Major League Baseball and the odds on favorite to win the World Series after an off season where Boston shelled out the dough to get a couple of the top available free agents. But as October approaches, it’s a completely different story.
The Sox are now clinging onto a potential Wild Card berth, but the Tampa Bay Rays are in the rearview mirror and coming up quick! The Rays are now just three games behind Boston for the American League Wildcard spot and momentum is certainly in their favor at the moment.
On Tuesday, the Sox begin what is arguably their most important homestand of the year, facing off against the Blue Jays which is followed by a four-game series with the Rays this weekend. The Sox are beginning to panic but they still have the upper hand, the fact that they have gone 42-29 at Fenway this year. Only the Yankees have fewer losses at home in the American League this season.
Speaking of Yankees –this is the part Red Sox fans might want to skip – right now New York is the Sox best friend. It already appears likely that the Yankees will wrap up the division, so they might just be an insurance policy for Boston. The Rays need to dig themselves out of a 3-game hole with 16 games to play and standing in their way are seven games in eight days against the Yankees. Four of those games come right after the weekend in Fenway and while they’ll be in the Bronx, the Red Sox will likely be picking apart the last place Baltimore Orioles.
The Rays and Sox do have something in common, both started the season 0-6 but it took a lot longer for Tampa to recover. Just over a month ago on Aug. 7, the Rays were 11 games back in the division but have gone 23-10 since, and have been the hottest team in baseball during the month of September. The Sox, on the other hand, not so much.
Boston’s big issue has been with the starting pitching and lately it seems as though only Beckett can carry the load in this most important of months. After Beckett, the rotation has recently been a big question mark, mainly since the Sox don’t know what they’re going to get from Jon Lester and John Lackey when they step on the mound, as both have had troubles pitching six or seven strong innings. Lester has pitched almost as well as Boston had hoped he would at the beginning of the season but Lackey – who boasts an ERA of 6.30 – continues to be a disappointment since he came from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever Californians call the Angels this week.
Anything can happen in September and we have seen that in recent years. There is still plenty of Boston and with the Sox proverbial hand close to the panic button, if they are not careful, they might just be watching October baseball on TV like the rest of us.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.