Not so fast.
Just when it seemed that the Boston Red Sox would be able to cruise into the playoffs after clinching the American League East title, there is still plenty left at stake for the Red Sox with five games remaining in the regular season. Despite having won the division, the Red Sox have another playoff battle going on with the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s best record, leading by one game.
Many will wonder why finishing with the league’s best record is such a top priority, but based on the Red Sox’ regular season performance against the Tampa Bay Rays, Cleveland Indians, and Detroit Tigers, finishing with the league’s best record will be very important. If the Red Sox finish first, they would be slated to play the wild card winner. Finishing second, the Red Sox would play the Tigers.
Currently standing, the wild card play-ins would be the Rays and Indians, both of whom the Red Sox have had great success against this year. On the season, the Red Sox hold a 12-7 mark against the Rays and a 6-1 record against the Indians. Conversely, the Red Sox lost four of seven match-ups against the Tigers.
Not only have the Red Sox had trouble with the Tigers this season, but they also pose a troubling match-up concerning their starting rotation. The Tigers’ front three starters consist of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez, all capable of shutting down the Red Sox offense. Holding a commanding lead in the central division, the Tigers would be capable of aligning their rotation for a division series against the Red Sox.
By playing the winner of the wild card, the Red Sox would benefit in two ways. Not only do the Red Sox hold winning records against the Rays and Indians, but both teams would be forced to use one of their top starting pitchers, a huge advantage for the Red Sox entering the American League Divisional Series.
While it seemed that the Red Sox and their fans would be able to breathe easy after clinching the division, the next five games could prove vital in the team’s hopes of a long post-season run.