Remember September: It's make-or-break time for Boston
What sort of September would you prefer: 2011 (above) or 2007 (below)?
Gird yourselves, all you white-knuckled citizens of Red Sox Nation — like a roller coaster approaching that first precipitous drop, September is upon us.
Through the first five months of the season, the Sox have enjoyed an extraordinary and unexpectedly successful campaign and currently boast the second-best record in all of baseball (80-56) as well as a three-and-a-half-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays atop the American League East Division.
But ask any die-hard disciple who’s been along for an autumn ride with the Red Sox and they’ll tell you all that means a duckboat worth of diddly-squat in September.
After Sunday’s finale against the White Sox, Boston plays 19 of its remaining 24 games against AL East foes hell-bent on making desperate, last-ditch drives to unseat the Sox from top spot in the division and punching their own ticket to the playoffs.
After hosting a three-game series against the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers Sept. 2-4, the Sox travel to New York to face the Yankees Sept. 4-8 and then continue to St. Petersburg for three against the Rays at Tropicana Field Sept. 10-12. Boston will be back at the Fens for its final regular-season home stand following that trip and will play host to the Yankees (Sept. 13-15), Orioles (Sept. 17-19) and Jays (Sept. 20-22). As bizarre as it seems, Boston then flies to Colorado to play a short, two-game inter-league set against the Rockies Sept. 24 and 25 before closing out the season at Camden Yards against the Orioles Sept. 27-29.
While the Blue Jays will be relegated to playing spoiler, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the suddenly resurgent Yankees — New York leapfrogged over the Orioles into third-place in the AL East on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Baltimore — all could be in contention if the Sox stumble for an extended stretch in September.
There’s no room for error. It’s a war of attrition and everything is still up for grabs — the division crown, a pair of wild cards and, as always, ignominy.
Which is exactly what Sox fans suffered during the past two seasons. In 2011, the Sox crumbled in epic fashion in September, going 7-20 and missing the playoffs on the last day of the season. In 2012, Boston was in such an extended, season-long death spiral that the team’s 7-19 record in September was of no consequence.
Still, you’ve got to like Boston’s chances this time around. So far in 2013, the Sox have posted winning records against all of their adversaries in the American League East — 10-6 vs. Tampa Bay; 9-7 vs. Toronto; 7-5 vs. New York — except for Baltimore, which owns a 7-6 edge over Boston in the season series.
And with rosters set to expand and ace Clay Buchholz, who posted a 9-0 record and a 1.71 ERA before being sidelined with a shoulder injury in June, set to return to his No. 1 spot in the starting rotation sometime in the next two weeks, Boston suddenly has even more late-season depth at its disposal.
Get primed. Get pumped. It’s make-or-break time, and Boston is about to push for its first postseason berth since 2009.
To paraphrase Paul Simon, the Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.