Thursday night, the Red Sox play their final road game of August. They've got one more game in Texas, a place that had been a House of Horrors for Boston this season. All that changed over the past couple of days.
The Sox scored 24 runs in two games and finally got a pair of wins over the Rangers. The defending AL champs are a formidable foe, but in a 48-hour span, they stopped being Kryptonite to Boston's lineup.
With a sizeable lead in the AL playoff race, the Sox have set themselves up well for September. Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz are back in the lineup, and Kevin Youkilis isn't too far behind.
The Sox are already getting themselves in line for the postseason. They're being cautious with injured players — sitting Ellsbury for three games after he was hit by a pitch Friday night. They're getting pitchers extra rest when possible — giving Andrew Miller a start Thursday night and bumping everyone back an extra day.
At this point, there isn't a whole lot of mystery in the four playoff races. The Rangers are allowing the Angels back into it out West, but the Tigers have a firm grip on the Central. The Sox and Yankees seem locks for the postseason — one will win the East, while the other will be the wild card.
The question is, which would you rather be? The division leader will most likely face the Tigers in the first round while the wild card takes on the Rangers. Until these last two nights, that was an easy choice for Red Sox fans. The Rangers dominated Boston and were the team you did not want to face in the first round.
Now, you might take your chances with the Rangers. That would keep you from facing Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander twice in a five-game series. He is, by far, the best pitcher in the American League. The Tigers might not scare you as a team, but Verlander gives them a real chance to take three out of five.
Then again, C.J. Wilson gives the Rangers a very good chance against the Red Sox. Since he became a starter, Wilson is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA against Boston. You think the Red Sox want to face him twice in a best-of-five?
By comparison, Verlander is 3-2 with an ERA of 3.22 against the Sox. Still good, but not nearly as good as he's been against other teams. And winning the division gives them home-field advantage. The Sox are hitting 36 points higher at Fenway, and that could be the edge in a short series.
Hard as it is to believe, the Sox are probably better off facing Verlander. Even though he's the best pitcher in the league … and even though they just manhandled the Rangers two straight nights.
In other words, beating the Yankees out for first place would be a very good thing for the Sox. As if you didn't already know that.