In a much better year, this series would be filled with playoff implications. Certainly this time last year Red Sox vs. Rays was, in essence, the battle for the American League East, the two sides fighting tooth-and-nail for first place.
In a slightly better year, this series might be about establishing a role at the trade deadline. Getting that last look in at a team that could go either way--either excel with a little extra investment, or head down well below .500 if the decision was made that, no, this was not going to be our year after all.
In this year, this series is the end of the road. Or near enough to it. The actual day will come against the Blue Jays on the 30th for the Red Sox, when there is no more baseball left to play before July 31st comes and goes. But this is the series where both teams have to acknowledge that it's just not there. A series sweep would still see the Red Sox five games south of .500, still far from being contenders. For the Rays, they would be back just one, but a small-market team like Tampa Bay cannot afford to go all-in on such slim hopes. Not with someone like David Price set to hit free agency.
All that's left now is the buildup to the deadline before the long settling of the dust in August and September that, in those better years, would be called the postseason push. In the week to come all we can hope for is that Stephen Drew manage to interest someone, and that the kids put on the occasional show. And, of course, we can all watch the Jon Lester situation and hope it works out in whatever fashion we personally consider best.
But this really is the end of the road. Where even Ben Cherington and John Farrell will have to admit that the clock has run out on the 2014 Red Sox season, no matter what happens on the field.
At least the Rays are down here with us. Misery loves company.
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