The Boston Red Sox have a pair of upcoming road trips that allow them to play the spoiler role for teams vying for a post in the postseason.
Let’s face it, Boston Red Sox fans were spoiled last year. A franchise-record 108 wins, a loaded roster led by an MVP, and a World Series title. Everything was coming up roses in 2018.
They set the bar high last year which makes this season’s regression feel worse than it is. The Red Sox certainly aren’t a bad team. They will finish with a winning record and at least made it to September still playing meaningful games. Boston will have a chance to flirt with 90 wins, a strong total in most years but a massive drop from last season.
Boston enters the day 9.5 games out of a Wild Card spot with 15 games remaining. Any slim chance at a postseason spot has evaporated. That doesn’t mean they should mail it in the rest of the way, as there’s still something left to play for. They can play the spoiler role.
The Red Sox head to Philadelphia for a short two-game set against a Phillies team that sits two games out of a Wild Card spot in the National League. The second Wild Card spot is currently held by the Milwaukee Brewers, who are vulnerable after losing reigning MVP Christian Yelich to a fractured kneecap. The Chicago Cubs are even with the Brewers with an identical 78-68 record.
The Phillies need to climb over both NL Central teams in order to make the playoffs. Dropping a pair of games to an out of the hunt yet still dangerous Red Sox team would put a damper on their postseason chances. The Red Sox could take some solace in defeating a playoff contender.
Boston only has one fewer win than the Brewers and Cubs this season. With a sweep of the Phillies, it’s conceivable that the Red Sox could have a better record than one of the NL Wild Card teams by the end of the weekend. While that doesn’t punch their ticket to October, it goes to show that the agony of their failures has been a bit overblown.
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Looking ahead to next weekend, the Red Sox will have an opportunity to spoil the season for the Tampa Bay Rays during a four-game set that kicks off their final road series. The Rays are 10 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. The division is nearly out of reach but the Red Sox can ensure their comeback falls short by winning the series in Tampa. Not that we want to help the Yankees but their spot in the postseason is nearly secured anyway.
The Rays currently hold the second AL Wild Card spot. They are half a game behind the Oakland A’s for home-field advantage in the one-game playoff and half a game ahead of a Cleveland Indians team that threatens to steal their spot. A lot can change in a week but we can assume this trio will remain in a tight race when the Red Sox visit the Rays next weekend. The Red Sox winning that series would put a serious dent in their division-rivals playoff hopes.
Winning places a target on your back. We’ve seen it for nearly two decades with the New England Patriots. Everyone outside of this region is waiting for their downfall. The Red Sox have ventured into similar territory with four World Series titles in the last 15 years. Rival fan bases are reveling in our misfortune this season. With our postseason hopes out of reach, there’s nothing left for us to do but return the favor. Root against those teams vying for playoff spots as Boston aims to spoil their dreams.