Prior to Friday's 3-2 victory over the Indians, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said that the American League East is still "a division that we want to win." While that is obviously the preference for all Sox fans, the Yankees' 11-game lead over Boston with 48 games to play suggests that that outcome may not be a possibility at this point.
Still, the Red Sox are not completely dead and buried in the playoff hunt. The Tigers and Orioles lead the wild card race going into Saturday with 61-52 records, with the Sox 5 1/2 games back at 56-58. That's closer than both of 2011's wild card winners were at this point last season, as the Rays were 8 1/2 games back and the eventual World Series champion Cardinals were six games back.
To match the Tigers' and Orioles' projected win total, Boston will have to play at a .646 clip for the rest of the season, a daunting task for what appears to be a .500 team. Stranger things have happened, but a Red Sox team with one reliable starter and an injured David Ortiz making a playoff run would be pretty odd.
The Red Sox haven't finished fourth in the AL East since 1997, but that is a distinct possibility this season as Boston trails third-place Tampa Bay by five games. The nightmare scenario of a last-place finish isn't out of the question, either, as the Sox are just two games up on Toronto for that position. The Red Sox haven't finished in last place since 1992.