Let’s be real here, the Boston Red Sox have not put themselves in a great position to make the postseason.
As we enter the final month of the campaign, the Sox sit five games out of the second wild card spot, currently held by the Oakland Athletics. The Tampa Bay Rays are the only team between the Sox and A’s, and Boston trails them by four games.
Leapfrogging two teams in the wild card standings is no easy task, not only because you have to keep winning often, but because you need to rely on multiple good teams to start losing.
But baseball is a weird sport, so weird things happen.
First, let’s look at some recent history. With their 9-5 win over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park, the Red Sox and A’s had a share of the second wild card spot on July 27. But a bad run over the next two weeks dropped the Red Sox to 6 1/2 games back. In other words, big change can happen in a relatively short period of time.
And lest we forget, the Red Sox also have been on the wrong end of an insane September turnaround. On Sept. 1, 2011, the Red Sox led the Rays in the American League East by nine games. As you know, Boston fell apart and squandered that lead over the course of the month, ceding the division to the Yankees and the wild card to the Rays.
They just needed to play semi-decent baseball in that stretch, but flamed out and saw what seemed like a pretty secure league disappear.
This info isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s a reminder that the Red Sox, who won the World Series less than a year ago with almost this exact roster, are not completely out of it. They didn’t do themselves any favors by periodically stumbling throughout the season and putting themselves here, but their playoff prospects aren’t a total lost cause — even if it is a long shot. Not to put the cart before the horse, but the Red Sox finish their season with four games against the Rays (the significance there is obvious), three against the Texas Rangers (a kind of bad team) and three against the Baltimore Orioles (a really bad team). In short, they’re going to have their chances to keep chipping away, though being at the mercy of other teams’ results is unenviable.
This isn’t by any means a guarantee the Red Sox are going to make some big push. As far as this season is concerned, the body of work isn’t there to show that this team is going to buckle down and make a run this September, so being anything other than skeptical is, well, naive.
But if you’re on your last shred of hope (or looking for one last shred of hope), you can take solace in the fact these standings can shuffle quickly, and teams in much worse positions have put together runs to make the playoffs.
Just ask the 2011 Red Sox.