Red Sox can clinch a playoff spot Tuesday

Dempster could help clinch a playoff berth tonight against Baltimore. - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sure beats whatever was happening on September 17 last year, right?

While Boston's magic number for winning the division is still four, they could clinch at minimum one of the two American League wild cards as soon as Tuesday night, thanks to the Cleveland Indians losing to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.

The Red Sox begin a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles, who are vying for a wild card spot, on Tuesday. Should the Red Sox win, the Orioles can no longer tie Boston in the standings in 2013, leaving only the Indians as a club with a chance -- from a mathematical standpoint -- to get in Boston's way. The Providence Journal's Brian MacPherson explains:

The Indians have won 81 games and have 12 left to play. The Red Sox have won 92 games. That means the Indians have to win all but one of their remaining games -- and the Red Sox have to lose all of theirs -- just to tie the Red Sox. Two more Cleveland losses, two more Red Sox wins or one more of each would mean the Red Sox would ensure themselves of a playoff berth.

That could happen tonight. If the Red Sox beat Baltimore and Kansas City beats Cleveland, it would be statistically impossible for either Baltimore or Cleveland to pass the Red Sox.

It doesn't have to happen that way, of course -- there is plenty of time left for the Red Sox to win two more games in 2013, setting them up for, at worst, the second wild card, so an Indians victory on Tuesday wouldn't be deflating. Still, though, it's a significant change from where they were at this time a year ago, and recognizing how close they are to a postseason berth feels good.

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