When the Red Sox took two-of-four from Tampa Bay last week, it seemed like a job well done. The Rays had been hanging on by a thread to contention, and with the Sox taking two games when the Rays had to be expecting at least three wins, if not all four...well, it seemed like that was it for Tampa.
What we weren't so much counting on was tough times for the Oakland Athletics. Once the clear favorites for the top Wild Card spot, five losses in their last even games has put them a game-and-a-half back of the Orioles and 3.5 up on the Rays. As of this very moment they're winning, but with three more games coming up against the Rangers, it's not hard to imagine some more struggles in the immediate future.
The Rays, meanwhile, are in town for three games against Boston.
3.5 games is not an easy deficit to recover from over the course of the nine games that will be left to them, but can't you see it now? Texas takes the series 3-1, Tampa Bay comes to Fenway and knocks the Sox around (as would be expected, frankly) to make it just one game. One measly game and six tries to get it done. The Rays have to face the Orioles and White Sox to get it done, while the Athletics will have a go at the Mariners in between their sets against the Rangers, but still. Let them get within one, and it's anyone's ball game.
I don't love the Athletics right now, but the reason for that is because they've been blowing opportunities to get the Orioles back on top of the Yankees and letting the Rays climb up after them in the process. The real enemies here are, and always have been, he Yankees and Rays. These are the teams the Sox want to see suffer. This is all that's left to them this season.
Draft position has backslid. Once in sixth, the Sox now sit eighth, without much in the way of upward movement possible unless the Jays and/or Marlins go on a surprising run. While the next few spots back aren't too far away from Boston, though, this is something worth backsliding further for.