MLB Standings Watch: Red Sox fighting to avoid last place

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Sep 19, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) celebrates with designated hitter David Ortiz (34) after hitting a home run during the sixth inning in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

With only a dozen games left on the schedule, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a tight race. Nope, it’s not a playoff race. This is a battle to avoid last place.

The Red Sox have split the first two games of a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which began with Boston trailing by a mere half game. The teams have taken turns sharing the bottom spot in the division during this series and may flip-flop again over their next two games.

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Is finishing ahead of Tampa Bay for fourth place really much of an accomplishment? Not really, but the Red Sox are eager to avoid the stain of finishing last in the division in three of the last four years. A lot of franchises would gladly accept that fate if it meant having a championship season in between, but that mentality doesn’t fly in Boston. The Red Sox are supposed to contend every year, so 2013 is looked at as meeting expectations, while the seasons that bookend that title are considered massive disappointments. This team doesn’t want to end the season that way again.

The Rays aren’t the only team in this battle. Boston is only two games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who they welcome to Fenway Park this weekend. By the end of the week the Red Sox could potentially be as high as third place in the division.

Why should this matter to Red sox fans? It’s not just about pride, although that should come in to play for the players at least. Third place may not mean much, but last place might. Boston will be looking to reload this winter with an eye on fixing their starting rotation. That will likely have them looking to dip into the free agent market, which is expected to be flush with potential front line starting options. Money talks in the free agent game and the Red Sox front office should be ready to open up the checkbooks after shuffling through the bargain discount bin for pitching last offseason. However, they won’t be the only team willing to spend. The chance to win is also a factor for the top free agents, so finishing last in their division for the second straight season could work against the Red Sox if all else is relatively equal.

Postseason hopes faded long ago for the Red Sox, but let’s not pretend that there is nothing left to play for in these final two weeks.

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