Will the the Rays catch the Red Sox and win the AL wildcard. Don’t count on it writes Jonah Keri over at Grantland:
No team has ever squandered a lead of 7.5 games or more in September. Yes, the Sox have seen their 9.5-game cushion on Tampa Bay shrink to three games in just 12 days. But this isn’t horseshoes or nuclear war. No points are awarded for coming close. If the Sox merely play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Rays need to go 11-5 (.688) just to set up a tiebreaker.
The schedule says that won’t happen. Seven of Boston’s final 16 games come against the Orioles; the Rays have just two games left against them (and seven against the loaded Yankees). Baltimore owns the worst record in the American League, second-worst in the majors. Last night’s O’s lineup included Matt Angle, Kyle Hudson, and Robert Andino. The Red Sox could send a 51-year-old Oil Can Boyd out against the Orioles and they’d still win. Steamroll the O’s as expected, then win a handful of other games, and you force the Rays to play ostensibly perfect baseball for the next 2½ weeks.
Regression is coming. Everything that could have gone wrong for Boston has gone wrong. Dustin Pedroia, one of the best all-around players in the league, has gone ice-cold. He’s 3-for-34 in his past eight games, with nine strikeouts and one extra-base hit. He’s hitless in his past 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The recent RISP woes run deeper than that: The Sox are hitting just .228 in that situation over their past eight games, including a 1-for-15 stretch against the Rays.
These things don’t last.
[Photo Credit: N.Y. Daily News]