With the Rays and Yankees playing one another while the Sox are in Seattle, Boston has to hope that one of the two teams it is chasing gets swept.
To their credit, the Sox still have a tiny shred of hope, if only because the Yanks and Rays do not look very good right now.
"Obviously we're fighting for our lives and everybody's putting in really hard work and playing hard," said Ryan Kalish, who had the go-ahead hit in the seventh Sunday. "Obviously we still have a chance to get in."
That effort continues Monday when Jon Lester goes for his career-high 17th win opposite Doug Fister. First pitch is 10:10 p.m.
Final, Red Sox 5-3: Jonathan Papelbon strikes out the side to record his first save in 10 days as the Red Sox salvage one of three games in Oakland.
Josh Beckett gets the win with a workmanlike six innings and the bullpen is perfect over the final three.
Boston is back to 7 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay and is eight behind the reeling New York Yankees as it heads to Seattle for three more.
We'll be back a little later on with more reaction.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 5-3: Jonathan Papelbon was warming in the bullpen and will come in to try to pick up his 36th save.
Also warming was Matt Fox, the guy the Sox recently claimed off waivers from Minnesota. Fox is on the Sox. If only Dr. Suess was still around to write the story.
End 8th, Red Sox 5-3: The biggest difference between Scott Atchison and several other Red Sox relievers who have faltered in middle inning roles this season is that he simply throws strikes. It was what impressed the coaching staff all the way back in Fort Myers and got Atchison on the club in the first place.
Jonathan Papelbon will pitch the ninth, barring a rally by the Sox that breaks this one open.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 5-3: The Red Sox get a little more breathing room due to a throwing error by A's reliever Jerry Blevins. A pair of runners were left in scoring position.
Strangely, J.D. Drew has gone 3-for-3 against lefties in this one. He entered hitting .185 off left-handers.
End 7th, Red Sox 4-3: If you were handed an MVP ballot for the Red Sox, where would Scott Atchison rank? Is it too crazy to consider him a top five candidate on this team?
Atchison has been the most consistent reliever in the second half of the season and his ability to adjust to different roles has been invaluable.
He has a 1-2-3 seventh and has allowed just one run in his last nine innings of work. The righty has a 2.30 ERA in his last 18 appearances.
By the way, Daniel Bard threw 32 pitches on Saturday so Atchison may be needed for three more outs.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 4-3: Boston goes in order in the seventh and we head to the bottom half, the point at which the A's rallied on Saturday night. Scott Atchison will face the 3-5 hitters in relief of Josh Beckett.
End 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Josh Beckett has stranded two runners in scoring position for the second time. If he is done after 109 pitches he will have four straight quality starts in his pocket.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 4-3: Ryan Kalish hits for Bill Hall and needs just two pitches to give the Red Sox the lead, lining a two-run single to left. Kalish has eight RBIs in his last five games.
Over the past couple of weeks I've taken heat for simply alluding to the fact that the Red Sox have an outside chance of making the playoffs. It has had less to do with what Boston has going for it than how little the Rays and Yankees do.
Both Tampa Bay and New York are not playing their best baseball and neither look like world-beaters. The Yankees have lost six of their last seven and the Rays have lost five of eight. Boston, meanwhile has won just two of its last eight.
Had the Sox just gone .500 or a game better in that stretch we might have something more to talk about. That's all we've been getting at. If this score stands they will be 7 1/2 back heading to Seattle but it could very easily be 5 1/2 or so.
New York looks awful right now. No starting pitching, a battered lineup producing very little and a bullpen that is very inconsistent. With six games remaining between the Sox and Yanks there would've been some drama if Boston had just had a better week this week.
But they haven't.
5:57 p.m.: J.D. Drew has atoned for his running gaffe from earlier on with a two-run double in the sixth that chases Dallas Braden. The Red Sox' rally began with two outs and will have a chance to continue. Ryan Kalish is up with two runners in scoring position.
End 5th, Athletics 3-0: Mark Ellis has always been an incredibly streaky hitter. Unfortunately for the Red Sox they have caught him on a hot streak. Ellis's two-run double in the fifth gives Dallas Braden a little more breathing room.
Ellis is 19-for-40 (.475) in September.
Mid 5th, Athletics 1-0: Dallas Braden has his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth. Yamaico Navarro is now 2-for-22 since joining the Red Sox.
End 4th, Athletics 1-0: Josh Beckett's strikeout binge has continued. He has seven Ks and could very well set a season high in that category for the second straight start.
Mid 4th, Athletics 1-0: The Red Sox get two singles in the fourth and nobody reaches second base. In fact, one of them never really settled in at first.
David Ortiz led off with a base hit in front of Jeremy Hermida but Mike Lowell followed by bouncing into a double play.
J.D. Drew then had a single more towards the corner in right and rounded first too far, getting thrown out coming back to the bag very lazily. Awful play by Drew.
That is at least the third time in this series that Sox runners have been caught by A's defenders throwing behind them after getting caught too far off a base. Two of them have resulted in outs.
End 3rd, Athletics 1-0: One of the impressive aspects of Josh Beckett's recent improvement was his extremely low walk totals. He had issued two walks or less in eight straight outings entering this one. Rather shocking then to see him walk four straight men with one out in the third.
That inning alone snaps Beckett's career-high streak of 20 straight road starts with three walks or less.
When you lose it you lose it, I guess. Beckett was actually fortunate to escape with just the one run scored.
Coco Crisp had the first of the four walks and scored the run. He has at least one walk in each game of the series and five stolen bases, continuing to do the job as the leadoff man for Oakland.
Throw in Crisp's three-hit effort in the series opener, which he began by robbing Ryan Kalish of a home run, and you can see how valuable the speedster can be if and when he stays healthy.
Unfortunately he had trouble with that in Boston.
Mid 3rd, 0-0: Just like Josh Beckett did in the second, Dallas Braden allows two runners to get into scoring position in the third. Just like Josh Beckett he gets out of the inning without being scored upon.
The A's are 32-15 in day games and only four American League teams have more home wins.
End 2nd, 0-0: A double and a single get the A's going in the second but Josh Beckett squirms out of it. He has allowed just one earned run in his last 12 1/3 innings of work.
Mid 2nd, 0-0: The Raiders were trounced in Tennessee so there are likely some upset fans at the Coliseum this afternoon.
The way things have gone for the A's against the Red Sox in recent years, they might be smiling by the time this one is through. Boston is 8-18 in Oakland over the last five years and has lost 17 of its last 23 there.
End 1st, 0-0: After striking out a season-high nine in his last start Josh Beckett opens up this one with another K. He is through the first in just 11 pitches.
Mid 1st, 0-0: A leadoff walk to Marco Scutaro leads nowhere for the Red Sox. Scutaro entered 8-for-14 (.571) against Dallas Braden but that was the first time he had ever walked against the lefty.
Tampa Bay just lost on a walk-off in Toronto. The Sox have a chance to get within 7 1/2 games with three weeks to play. Does that take your attention off football?
3:38 p.m.: Josh Beckett's subpar season has received plenty of blame for the Red Sox' campaign not going as planned. If you simply imagine him having an average season, say 15 wins and an ERA around 3.90, it's hard to imagine Boston not being in the mix with Tampa Bay and New York.
Beckett seemed resigned to the fact that he might be pitching out the string on a third-place team after his start Aug. 31 in Baltimore. Not that he had given up, by any means. But he said he would relish the role of spoiler if it came down to it and hope to build some momentum for himself heading into 2011.
He has very quietly done the latter. While Beckett's run support has been minimal, his bullpen has failed to provide him much relief and the defense behind him has not always helped out, the righty has improved bit by bit.
His earned runs allowed over the past six starts are as follows: 7, 6, 6, 3, 2, 1.
In addition, he has 27 strikeouts in 26 innings over his last four outings while walking just six. Beckett fanned a season-high nine his last time out and has walked two or less in eight straight starts. In addition, Beckett has thrown three straight quality starts for the first time since a four-game run that began in July 2009.
It is all somewhat lost in a lackluster campaign for your Opening Night starter, but he has shown signs of normalcy. Let's hope he can carry that into 2011.
3:09 p.m.: For those of you not glued to the Pats or still interested in all things Red Sox we first have sympathy for you and then have an offering — here is the Oakland lineup against Josh Beckett:
Coco Crisp, CF
Daric Barton. 1B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jack Cust, DH
Jeremy Hermida, RF
Rajai Davis, LF
Steve Tolleson, 3B
Cliff Pennington, SS
1:12 p.m.: Since you have all set your fantasy lineups by now and begin the hand-wringing task of monitoring statistics from around the NFL, we give you the Red Sox' real lineup for Sunday afternoon's tilt in Oakland:
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Darnell Mcdonald, CF
Victor Martinez, C
Adrian Beltre, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Mike Lowell, 1B
J.D. Drew, RF
Bill Hall, LF
Yamaico Navarro, SS
7 a.m.: The Red Sox have already clinched a sixth straight losing season series in Oakland. They will attempt to salvage the last of six games in the Coliseum when they wrap up a weekend series with the Athletics on Sunday afternoon.
Following Saturday's 4-3 loss the Sox were 1-4 in Oakland this year and 8-18 since 2005.
The setback reduced Tampa Bay's magic number to secure a playoff berth to 14.
Josh Beckett goes against Dallas Braden in the finale. First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 p.m.