As of September 2, the Red Sox sit 15.5 games out from first place American League East division leaders the Yankees. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games with a 74-63 win-loss record for the season. It is extremely doubtful that last year’s World Series winners can even secure a place in the playoffs this season. Is it possible? Well, yes, but highly improbable.
History of a reverse scenario
As of September 1, 2011, the Red Sox led the AL East by nine games over the Rays. Then, the Red Sox lost it to the tune of 18 of their 24 final games. They lost the title to the Yankees as well as their playoff spot to the Rays.
The worst hit came the last day of the season when the Reds suffered a ninth-inning loss to the Orioles in a blown save. At the same time, the Rays overcame the Yankees in a come-from-behind win, securing their spot in the playoffs. Things can change, and quickly so.
Loss of Chris Sale
Left-hander Chris Sale was placed on the 60-day injured list on August 13, with inflammation and soreness in his pitching arm. While he likely won’t require Tommy John surgery, he is most likely out for the season.
But during an August 30 press talk, Red Sox manager Alex Cora indicated there was a chance Sale could return. He was starting to “play catch,” Cora said. While that’s great for the long-term, we don’t see him being healthy enough to contribute any more this season — and they shouldn’t push him. After all, he is in the first year of his five-year extension, with the club’s $145 million obligations.
Starters, bullpen, and offense, oh my!
With the loss of Sale, the Red Sox were left with three of their rotation, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello, and Dave Price. Rodriguez is the bright spot with a .762% win-loss percentage at 16 wins, 5 losses on the season. Porcello’s having a pretty good year, too, at .545%, 12-10. Price sits at .583% with seven wins and five losses. But, the bullpen has to back them up!
The team’s batting average is .275 overall this year, and they are rated in the AL for that stat. They also have 752 RBIs so far this year. They rate sixth in field errors with 77. Still, the team is being outplayed. At the end of July, the Red Sox shared the second wild-card spot with Oakland. But Boston wasn’t up to snuff the first two weeks of August, putting them 6.5 games back. That’s significant, especially in just two weeks time.
What has to happen?
Other good teams have to lose. The Sox have to win. It’s that simple. By the end of August, having won 12 of their 19 games during the later part of the month, the Red Sox moved up to 5.5 games behind the A’s for the second slot. Ah, in two weeks they advanced by one game. With those stats, they will be only 3.5 games behind by the close of the season.
It should be noted that the A’s are in second place in the AL-West, behind the Astros. Their record to date is 78-58, having a 5-5 record in their last 10 games. So, they have been a bit shaky, but will they completely fail in the last month? Not likely.
Watch out for Oakland
The A’s starting rotation has been hot. And with Sean Manaea’s return on September 1, it’s getting even hotter. Manaea had been laid up following shoulder surgery last September. He threw a no-hitter earlier that year against … the Red Sox.
According to NBC News, “Mike Fiers and Tanner Roark are definitely locked into the top two spots.” Let us not forget that Fiers threw his second career no-hitter in May 2019. The other three starters, Brett Anderson, Chris Bassitt, and Homer Bailey, all had a good month of August.
“Manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t rule out the idea of a six-man rotation in the month of September, especially when Oakland plays 16 straight games without a day off between September 3 and 18,” NBC News reported. In that September 1 game, Manaea consecutively shot down the Yankees’ lineup, the first time around. He saw five innings with five strikeouts, three walks, one hit, and no runs. However, the bullpen blew the save.
Last year the A’s made it to the wild cards, only to lose to the Yankees in 0-1 game. They’d obviously like to correct that this year. The Red Sox would prefer they didn’t have the chance. In their end-of-season wrap-up, the Red Sox will see the Rays, Rangers, and Orioles. The Athletics will see the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners, all trailing them in their division.
Good luck Red Sox, you have overcome the odds before, but this one’s going to be really tough.