The Red Sox limp into a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays that for all intents and purposes represents a last-gasp effort to stay in the wild card race. Anything less than a sweep would just about put an end on any postseason aspirations, if indeed Boston still has any.
In order to take all three games, here are a few keys to success.
Have a Short Memory
It's safe to say the weekend sweep at the hands of the Chicago White Sox was the worst two-day stretch of the season for Boston.
The Red Sox lost three games in span of about 26 hours, each more painful than the one before it. The sense in the clubhouse after the finale, which saw the bullpen give up four runs in the ninth inning of a 7-5 loss, was that an opportunity to gain a little life had been washed away.
Dropping three straight at home in September when you need wins at a steady pace is tantamount to season suicide. Not being able to forget it could make the Tampa Bay series a disaster.
David Price and Matt Garza go in the last two games of the series for Tampa Bay. They always present a challenge. Facing Jeff Niemann in the opener may give the Red Sox' sputtering offense a chance to get going.
Niemann is 0-2 with an 18.36 ERA since returning from a shoulder strain that put him on the disabled list. Until he shows the form that made him a borderline All-Star earlier in the year the Rays will have concern whether he is the same pitcher.
Boston can set a tone for the series by jumping on Niemann.
Waiting on Buchholz
If you see Clay Buchholz starting Wednesday's series finale you know the Red Sox have performed well in the first two contests.
Buchholz may pitch the finale on short rest, but only if the club has a real need for a win. If it has lost the first two there will be no need to force the issue with Buchholz and risk injury in a game that likely won't mean much.
The All-Star right-hander has never pitched on three days' rest in his career.