BOSTON — Because of their team's September slide and the way the schedule is laid out, Red Sox fans are in a peculiar position this week. Do you do the unthinkable and root for the New York Yankees?
The Yankees will be hosting the Tampa Bay Rays for four games in three days starting Tuesday. With Boston's deficit in the American League East race at five games in the loss column (entering Monday) and its lead in the wild card at two, it might be time to swallow hard.
"It's a painful thing but I think you have to," said Sandy Lambrechts, of Holliston, Mass., who was at Fenway Park on Monday to attend the opener of a doubleheader. "I think that's our only hope right now."
A lot can change before that series begins. The Sox have their doubleheader against Baltimore and New York hosts Minnesota in a make-up game Monday. But the idle Rays can still do plenty of damage to Boston's chances with a strong showing in Yankee Stadium.
The conundrum is enough to open up a legitimate debate, such as the one Paul Deranian, of Exeter, N.H., had with his son on the way into the park Monday.
"We were talking about that on the way in," Deranian said. "You can root for the Yankees just to have a better chance of getting into the playoffs, or do you root for them to split and still try for the [division] lead, which is not likely?
"I'd rather see them split and try for the lead. Any time you try to do anything but get to the front, what does that tell other people and your team? It doesn't do a lot for your confidence."
But how much confidence do Red Sox fans even have right now? For the most part, it's wavering.
"It's diminished a little bit but I still think they're going to get there," said Bob Collins of Londonderry, Vt., who came down with his son. "I don't think they get enough credit for the injuries they have."
It's a good point. Physical issues have dogged the Sox of late, but that's not the only problem. After listing a few more that have really irked him of late, and considering Boston's chances to get their on its own, Collins thought so more and gave the answer he never wanted to give.
"I guess if I really want the Red Sox in the playoffs I'm going to have to root for the Yankees, although it goes against every ounce of well-being for me," he said.