All month the Boston Red Sox have tried to avoid the temptation to peer into the rear-view mirror as the Tampa Bay Rays kept closer and closer in the American League wild-card race.
As it turned out, objects in the mirror were closer than they appeared.
With their latest confounding defeat — a 6-4 loss in Baltimore on Monday night — the Red Sox fell into a tie with their AL East rivals with only two games remaining.
The epic collapse that seemed nearly impossible a few short weeks ago, has nearly become a reality.
With two games left, the Red Sox need to get their act together in Baltimore and hope the New York Yankees don’t do the Rays any favors in Tampa. If they don’t, expect The Nation — whose team has now dropped 17 of 22 — to experience unpleasant flashbacks to the pre-2004 Sox.
An inconceivable dropped fly ball by MVP candidate Jacoby Ellsbury made Monday’s loss even more difficult to stomach as it resulted in a three-run inside-the-park home run off the bat of Robert Andino — the final three runs that gave the Orioles the win.
On Tuesday the Red Sox must try again, this time with Erik Bedard going against Zach Britton and a Baltimore team that would love nothing more than to spoil Boston’s playoff hopes.
The Rays, who took care of business in a 5-2 win Monday, send Jeremy Hellickson to the mound against Bartolo Colon. After the final out of Monday’s game, fans stuck around to watch the 9th inning of the Boston-Baltimore game, cheering when the Orioles closed it out.
Now, finally, Tampa Bay can control it’s own destiny. If the two teams finish the season tied, they would play a one-game playoff on Thursday at Tropicana Field.
“There’s not a lot of people out there who had faith in us, but here we are,” Rays winning pitcher James Shields said. “This is where we want to be. We’re down to the last two games of the year, and we control our own fate.”