Even worse, they have seen a nine-game lead evaporate to 5.5. In between their early season struggles and current collapse, the Red Sox have had the best record in baseball. Could two slumps cost them a shot at the postseason fun?
Here are four factors that could determine their fate, as well as a wild card prediction.
The Boston Red Sox have seen the injury bug ravage their roster. An incredible amount of starters have turned one of Major League Baseball’s World Series favorites into a mere wild card contender.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for the season and has not pitched in months. Jon Lester has spent time on the disabled list, Bobby Jenks has not pitched since July and Kevin Youkilis could not last a week off the DL before making a likely return with bursitis and a sports hernia. Erik Bedard, brought in to help the beleaguered pitching staff, missed his last start and his next one is in jeopardy as he gets his sore left lat looked at.
Now ace Josh Beckett, the lone constant in this starting rotation, is dealing with a bum ankle on his power leg and will miss his next start. All the injuries leave Boston with a probable starting five of Jon Lester, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller and Kyle Weiland through the next rotation.
The Boston Red Sox do not have a favorable schedule from here on out. As the injuries mount, Boston has to finish this three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays, then has seven more games combined between Tampa and the New York Yankees.
Their only break is against the Baltimore Orioles, whom they play seven more times. Rest assured the Fightin’ Showalters will try their damndest to play the role of spoiler against the team with which they got in a brawl just last month.
Tampa Bay does not have a favorable schedule, either, as they have seven against the Yankees after their opportunistic matchup against Boston.
The Anaheim Angels, however, only play five of their final 18 games against opponents with winning percentages over .500.
A week ago, the Boston Red Sox seemed destined for another division battle with the Yankees that would go down to the wire. Since then, however, Boston has dropped eight of 11, and their nine-game wild card lead has dropped to 5.5.
No doubt the injuries have played a huge part of the slump. However, healthy veterans have picked the worst time of season to play terrible baseball. As of now, the three proven pitchers in the starting rotation are John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and Jon Lester. Only Lester has held up his end of the bargain.
Lackey has dropped four of five, three straight and has not given up fewer than three runs in a start since July 22. Lackey’s curveball might as well have a "crush me" sticker attached to it. The former Anaheim Angels’ ace was bailed out of further damage by a line drive off his shin that cut his three-inning, five-run performance short against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
Tim Wakefield has been even worse, losing five straight starts since obtaining his 199th career victory over a month ago.
It seems unlikely the Boston Red Sox will drop a 5.5 game lead with 14 games to go. However, in the history of baseball, worst collapses have happened.
In possibly Major League Baseball's worst late-season swoon, the New York Mets dropped a seven-game, September 12 lead. The team still could have salvaged the division by winning their final game. Recent 300 game winner Tom Glavine bombed and gave up seven earned runs while recording just one out in a nine to one loss completed the collapse.
Just two years ago, the Detroit Tigers had spent May 10 until the last game of the season comfortably in the division lead. They faced the Minnesota Twins in the final series of the season, and needed to win just one out of a four-game set to secure the AL Central. They didn’t, and then dropped the one-game playoff, 6-5, in a 12-inning classic.
The rough schedule and rash of injuries will prove too much for Boston. If Tampa does not win the four-game set, given Boston's pitching woes, it is a safe bet they will split. Anaheim will take advantage, jump ahead of both teams and snag the wild card spot while beating down the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles of the world.
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