Despite the fact that the beginning of the NFL season is occupying much of the sports world’s interest, it’s about time to start checking your direcTV guide for MLB playoff times, as the postseason is just around the corner. In fact, the postseason is also nearly set, with the tightest pennant race taking place in the American League West, where the Angels have slowly but surely gained ground on the Rangers. Aside from this, and barring some very improbably comebacks and collapses, the postseason’s team roster is just about set – though the Red Sox seem to be making every effort to change that.
Thursday night the Red Sox continued their suddenly dramatic-looking late season slide by losing a 9-2 romp at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Sox – losers of 2 of their last 10 games and 11 of their 14 contests in September – were surely hoping for something of a turnaround. However, they lost to the Rays for the fourth time in a week, and with three more contests between the Sox and the Rays it’s possible that there could be a dead heat in the AL Wild Card race by the end of the weekend (the Sox are currently three games ahead, and both club have 13 games remaining). Don’t forget that the Sox entered September leading the AL East ahead of the Yankees as well.
Why has the team struggled so greatly of late? Injuries have certainly played a key roll.
Josh Beckett should return to the hill today after missing some time with an injured ankle. He’s been fantastic this year with a 2.49 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in his 27 outings.
Kevin Youkilis has fallen apart. Youkilis has a hip issue, and a hernia situation that will likely require surgery at the end of the season. Youk is hitting a mere .167 in September as the team has fallen apart.
Jed Lowrie continues to deal with a shoulder issue that last limited him to just one hit in September in 24-bats.
In terms of performance, Carl Crawford can’t keep his batting average over .250 (it’s currently at .249).
Daniel Bard has a loss in each of his last three appearances and in 4.2 innings in September he’s allowed eight runs.
Things have been so bad of late that Jonathan Papelbon, who has a 0.41 ERA and 0.36 WHIP in 22 innings since the All-Star break, hasn’t been handed a save opportunity since August 18th.
Once again, the AL East is providing most of the drama as we inch closer to the playoffs.
Can the Rays catch the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card spot and send the BoSox home without a playoff birth?
Can the suddenly hot Cardinals, now just 4.5 games out, catch the Braves for the NL Wild Card? Will the Rangers be able to hold off the Angels, whom the lead by 3.5 games, in the AL West?
No matter who makes it to the playoffs, be sure to check out the direcTV Guide for the scheduled times of the playoff matchups.