Last night was an incredibly successful night for the Red Sox. First off, they didn't play so they couldn't lose. But more importantly, the two teams chasing them, the Rays and Angels, both lost. Not only did they lose, but they lost while starting their aces.
The Rays had David Price going for them against the giant mess that is Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow. Yet it was Morrow who stepped up, holding the Rays to two hits and no runs over seven innings. Price played the role of Morrow, committing two throwing errors in the same inning leading to three unearned runs (how is it unearned if the pitcher is the one committing the error?). That was more than enough right there as the Rays were never able to get their bats off their shoulders, metaphorically speaking, against Morrow. The loss dropped the Rays chances of winning the Wild Card from 8% to 3.7% (via Cool Standings). Tampa finds itself 2.5 games behind the Red Sox, three in the loss column, with five left to play
The Angels game wasn't quite as big a bedcrapping by the favored team, but it was still pretty damaging. Jered Weaver took the mound for Anaheim against an A's team that had nothing on the line. Unlike Price he pitched well, but two solo homers bookended his start. He gave up one to lead off the game by Jemile Weeks and one to his last batter, David DeJesus in the ninth. In the eighth a single, sac bunt, and an error produced another single run for the A's. The Angels never got much going against A's starter Gio Gonzalez. The loss cut the Angels chances of winning the Wild Card by two thirds, from an already miniscule 2.9% to 1.1%.
Since the start of September the Red Sox are 5-16, a winning percentage of .238. Rhat equates to a 39-123 record over a full season. Over a six game stretch that winning percentage equals 1.4 wins. If the Red Sox manage to play just a smidgeon better and win two of their remaining six, the Rays must win four of their five remaining games just to catch Boston. To win outright they'll need to win all five. The Angels task is even more difficult. They would have to win all five of their remaining games, and even that would still force a one game playoff.
If the goal is to make the playoffs, the Red Sox are in very good shape. To make it they can almost maintain their current level of incompetence with just a small uptick. Their competitors losses yesterday have made their road to the playoffs much easier.
As to how Boston would play should they make the playoffs? We'll cross that bridge if we come to it.