It was just a short time ago that the Red Sox were in the driver's seat in the American League East, leading the division and battling to stake claim to the best record in baseball. But things have changed significantly and the Sox now find themselves clinging to only a two-game lead for the AL wild card after dropping three of four to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Sox are currently 4-13 during September and have struggled in nearly every facet of the game. Suddenly, postseason baseball isn't exactly the foregone conclusion that it once was.
With a banged-up rotation, the Sox need their offense to step up on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, though, the Sox' usually potent lineup hasn't been as consistent as it was early in the season, with big hits coming less and less frequently as of late. The Sox have also begun to press a bit, leading to uncharacteristic risks and subsequent mistakes.
What's even more troubling for the Sox is that they've struggled mightily against the Rays, who are playing great baseball behind their jovial manager, Joe Maddon. The two teams don't meet again this season, but they remain on a collision course as far as the standings are concerned, especially if the current trend continues.
The Sox are 1-8 in their last nine games against Tampa, hitting a dismal .199 while scoring only three runs per game. At the same time, their team ERA is 5.58 in those games.
In fact, the Rays are actually in a favorable position despite still trailing the Sox in the standings because they have little pressure on them and nothing to lose. The Sox have plenty to lose, as they were once considered to be World Series favorites this season.
But despite all of the doom and gloom of September, the Sox do remain in the wild card lead with 10 games left this season. They'll need to right the ship in order to seal the deal and punch their ticket to the postseason, but their talent level is undeniable.
It's tough to draw too many positives from the Red Sox' recent skid, but they could still be championship contenders if they make the postseason. However, "if" is the key word.