According to AssumedStandings.com, the Boston Red Sox had a 105.8% chance of making the playoffs this season. They had one of the better, if not the best, offenses in the game, and a rotation with five pitchers who ranged from fantastic to solid. The only reason they weren't just given the trophy in the offseason was because they had to beat the Phillies in the World Series.
So if the Red Sox were to collapse, if they were to fall behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild-Card race, it would be as surprising as it is devastating. The Red Sox fell again to the Yankees in New York, as they couldn't overcome early struggles from Tim Wakefield, losing 6-2. Meanwhile, the Rays got eight strong innings from Wade Davis, defeating the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2.
The Red Sox lead the Rays by a half-game in the Wild Card race. By the end of the Sunday doubleheader, they could be tied with the Rays, or they could be just one game up. Either way, they'll just have to hitch that ol' wagon to John Lackey. Say, that gives me an excuse to throw this up here again:
The Red Sox moved to 5-18 for the month of September, continuing an amazing, historic collapse. They got behind early, as the Yankees played small ball in the first. Two bunt singles, a stolen base, an error on Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and a Wakefield wild pitch gave the Yankees a two-run lead. In the third inning, Jorge Posada hit a booming two-run home run off Wakefield. Say, that might be a sentence you read in next year's All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game recap.
Boston couldn't score more than two runs off of A.J. Burnett, who struck out six hitters in 7-⅔ innings, walking two. His only mistakes came on two solo home runs to Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Robertson came in for the final innings, striking out three in 1-⅓ innings.
While the Red Sox were being befuddled by Burnett, they were probably getting additional discouragement from watching the scoreboard. Brett Cecil allowed a home run to B.J. Upton and an inside-the-park homer to Ben Zobrist in the bottom-half of the first, and a two-run homer to Evan Longoria. A Kelly Shoppach solo shot in the bottom of the sixth concluded the all-homer scoring for the Rays, and Davis allowed only five runners in his eight innings, limiting the Jays to two runs.
The Red Sox have the second game of the doubleheader on Sunday left before traveling to Baltimore for a three-game series to end the season, while the Rays will host the Yankees for three games. So it looks like the schedule still favors the Red Sox, though it's worth remembering that a) the Orioles took three out of four in Boston last week, and b) the Yankees will probably be resting several regulars as the season winds down. It's not like the Yankees are going to start Andrew Brackman in three straight games, but you could see how it be amusing for their fans if that's what they did.
On September 1st, the Red Sox were in first place in the AL East by a half-game. They were nine full games ahead of the Rays. On September 25th, they're clinging to a half-game lead just to make the playoffs.
Also of note: the Angels blew a sweet chance to get as close as one game back, losing to the A's, 6-5. That would have put us one step closer to having a three-way tie for the Wild Card that would have made Bud Selig's head explode like the guy from Scanners. Would have been good times.