Red Sox playoff hopes all but guaranteed


Clay Buchholz throws a pitch
Clay Buchholz’s return will only improve Boston’s chances heading into the postseason. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Barring the unforeseen, the Boston Red Sox will make the playoffs. Entering the final month of the season, the team is in control of its destiny. With 25 games remaining, going .500 the rest of the way is absolutely an available course of action.

As of game time on September 1, the Sox were 81-56. Winning just nine of their remaining 25 games would lead to a 90-win season. With two wild cards and a division title offering the Red Sox plenty of playoff slots to choose from, 90 wins are likely enough to make it. Of course, winning one of the wild card spots is not ideal, as it only guarantees them one more game. The goal has been, and should always be the division title. Lucky for the Red Sox, they currently sit atop the AL East, with 4.5 games separating them and the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.

In July, it became clear the Rays and Sox would battle it out for the AL East crown, with the loser all but guaranteed a playoff spot. However, this is the AL East we’re talking about, and even the third-place New York Yankees (equipped with the recently returned Derek Jeter) aren’t out of AL East crown talk, never mind playoff talk. The Baltimore Orioles just acquired Michael Morse and are still in consideration for one of the wild card spots, even with this weekend’s descent into third place.

The Yankees are currently in third in both the AL East and the wild-card race, with just 3.5 games between them and making the playoffs. The Yankees late surge has been expected with the return of Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter and even Alex Rodriguez, meaning the team should begin performing like it was supposed to. Even though this weekend’s series against the Orioles showed hope for the Yankees’ playoff hopes, they’re still going to need help to make it.

The Tampa Bay Rays have struggled lately, dropping seven of their last 10. What looked like a team that would battle the Red Sox for the AL East crown now looks like a team fighting to hold onto its wild card spot. However, if there’s any manager who can create some September magic, it’s the Rays’ Joe Maddon. The Rays remain Boston’s main competition in the AL East.

The Red Sox had a modest August, going 16-12. They went 8-4 at home in a road-heavy month. Their midseason trade for Jake Peavy seems have worked out, as Peavy has gone 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 39.2 innings pitched. Will Middlebrooks has also been the perfect addition, having hit .322 since returning, along with two home runs and seven RBI in 19 games. Xander Bogaerts has also contributed in limited playing time.

The best news of all is the return of Clay Buchholz, who figures to return to the rotation late in the first half of the month. Buchholz was the clear ace of the staff before a stiff neck sidelined him in early June. While many other playoff teams will deal with some fatigue with starters the final month of the season, the Red Sox will be able to combat it with an abundance of possible starters, beginning with Buchholz. Buchholz’s return, plus the versatility of Brandon Workman and the possible spot starts for Allen Webster allow the Red Sox some flexibility to save their rotation some wear.

The Red Sox are in full control of their playoff hopes, and they have been afforded every advantage a playoff-bound team would want entering the final month of the regular season. Regardless of where they end up, the Red Sox will make the playoffs and are in a good position to make a good run. With the dog days over, all that’s left is to play ball.

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