However, with 15 games remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, the Red Sox are in position to wreak a little havoc and play spoiler in both the American League East and AL wild card races.
The stretch against American League contenders begins tonight with Aaron Cook (3-10, 5.18 ERA) taking the ball against the Rays and Alex Cobb. Cook has struggled lately, failing to win a decision since Aug. 6 against the Texas Rangers. But this will be Cook’s first look at the Rays in 2012, and that usually benefits pitchers more than hitters. If Cook’s sinker stays down, he could lead the Red Sox toward keeping the Rays out of the postseason, much like Tampa Bay kept Boston from the playoffs last year.
Felix Doubront (10-9, 5.11) takes the mound Tuesday against Jeremy Hellickson and should be feeling confident about the start. In two games against the Rays in 2012, Doubront is 1-0 with just five runs allowed in 10 2/3 innings of work, with the Red Sox winning both games. Doubront will also be looking for his first win in quite some time — the lefty is winless since July 18 — and seeing a team he has had success against could get his confidence up.
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5, 7.14) will continue to battle Wednesday as he makes his 10th start. Having rebounded with 5 1/3 innings in his last outing in Toronto, Matsuzaka should be much more confident headed into this game. He has not faced the Rays since April 11 of last year, when he lasted just two innings and allowed seven runs on eight hits.
De facto ace Clay Buchholz (11-6, 4.33) will go into the final of the four games against the Rays with some interesting recent history with the opponents. In four starts against Tampa Bay this season, Buchholz is 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA. However, the games Buchholz — and the Red Sox — have lost have been solid performances by the pitcher. In the three losses, Buchholz has posted an ERA of 3.97 while allowing just eight runs over 18 1/3 innings but received only six runs of support in those games.
Jon Lester (9-12, 4.95 ) has rebounded nicely from his July swoon in which he posted an 0-3 record with a 9.36 ERA, and has looked more like the Lester that Red Sox Nation knows and loves. Tasked with opening a three-game set with the Orioles, Lester will be looking to make Friday night a bit shorter than his two appearences against Baltimore this year. Both games went to extra innings — 13 innings on May 4 and 10 innings on June 5 — with Boston losing both contests. Lester went six innings in each game, allowing just five runs overall for a 3.75 ERA.
The Red Sox have an opportunity to end the Rays’ season this week and make a dent against the Orioles. With the starters — and the bullpen — ready to fill the spoiler role, who do you think will be the Amica Pitcher of the Week?