September has not been kind to the Boston Red Sox.
After going 17-12 in the month of August, the Red Sox were feeling good about their chances of capturing the American League East. Entering play on September 1st, Boston found themselves one-and-a-half games ahead of the New York Yankees for first place in the division and a remarkable 31 games over .500.
But as the calendar turned, so did Boston's fortunes.
The Red Sox have dropped their last three series, punctuated by a disastrous four-game set in Toronto. Boston's September record stands at 2-6 and is beginning to remind fans of April's early season woes.
The poor play of the Red Sox alone was enough to sour some fans on their chances at an AL East crown, but when it was announced earlier in the week that front line starters Josh Beckett and Erik Bedard were going to miss their next starts, some fans began giving up altogether.
Unfortunately, with the way the Red Sox are playing, the Wild Card remains an uncertainty as well. The Tampa Bay Rays have fought to within six-and-a-half games of the Red Sox in the AL Wild Card and are set to play the Sox in seven out of their next nine contests. The madness starts tonight, as the Red Sox open a three-game set at Tropicana Field.
Considering the way the two teams are playing (Tampa's won three of their last four), this stretch could prove catastrophic for the reeling Red Sox.
With the playoffs hanging in the balance for the first time all season, the Red Sox will hand the ball to John Lackey and rookie Kyle Weiland in the first two games of the series. I don't know about you, but that doesn't exactly peak my confidence.
Couple that with Boston's well-documented struggles at the Trop and you get a recipe for disaster.
Any kind of letdown during this next stretch could be all Tampa needs to get within striking distance of the vulnerable Red Sox, making the final weeks of the season much more interesting than anyone bargained for.