Red Sox Still Have Time to Catch Rays and Yankees

Red Sox Still Have Time to Catch Rays and Yankees In the classic George Roy Hill film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, there is a chase scene where Paul Newman keeps looking over his shoulder at the men pursuing him, saying, "Who are those guys?"

The pair does everything it can to shake the tail, but the chase goes on and on. "Who are those guys?" Newman keeps asking.

In 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays are Butch Cassidy – the smart, wisecracking cowboy trying to stay one step ahead of the pack. The New York Yankees are the Sundance Kid – good-looking, seemingly flawless, the gunslinger everyone wants to be.

And the Boston Red Sox are those guys. They are the team that won’t go away. While the Yankees and Rays have been front-runners all year long, the Red Sox have been hanging in their wake. And now with the fifth month of the chase winding down, they are trying to close the ground between them and the pair out in front.

There has been a rush to throw dirt on the coffin of the 2010 Red Sox, with columnist after columnist telling us why this season is over. Those reports are greatly exaggerated. The Red Sox are definitely not out of this thing, not with a 5 1/2-game gap between them and a playoff spot with more than five weeks to go.

Of course, it’s one thing to "hang around" in a playoff race — it’s another to make up ground and chop games off a lead. Beginning Friday night, the Red Sox will have the chance to do that.  They open up a pivotal three-game set with the Rays at Tropicana Field, baseball’s version of the NHL’s "four-point games."  The Red Sox must take two out of three to make up ground, and if they do they’ve got themselves back in the thick of a playoff race, and it’s not even Labor Day.

Still haven’t been pulled back into this Red Sox race yet? Check out the pitching matchups for this series at the Trop.

Friday: Jon Lester vs. David Price
Saturday: Clay Buchholz vs. Matt Garza
Sunday: John Lackey vs. James Shields

The first two games feature four of the best pitchers in the league. They are playoff-type matchups, with nothing short of a playoff appearance on the line.

Wednesday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park had all the feel of a team back in the thick of things. There was day-long scoreboard watching, with the Rays losing an afternoon game in Anaheim, and the Yankees struggling at night in Toronto.

Meantime, the Red Sox tried to make it a sweep of the Mariners, but had to deal with Felix Hernandez in the nightcap. Despite the loss, the Red Sox still picked up a half-game on both the Yankees and Rays.

They are within sight of the leaders. Time is running short, but there is still time to catch their prey if they can get the job done in St. Petersburg this weekend.

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