Once the best team in the American League, the Red Sox find themselves fighting for a playoff spot, tied with the Texas Rangers and one game up on the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card. They have lost six straight in accordance with a darkly comic confluence of events. Consider everything crammed together in a short period of time:
- Critical comments made by pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka regarding the way the team has handled him came to light.
- David Ortiz was identified as one of the names on the list of players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.
- John Smoltz was designated for assignment after he allowed eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Yankees. He allowed at least five earned runs in six of eight starts and accumulated an 8.33 ERA.
- Fifteen players occupied six roster spots over a 10-day span.
- Jason Bay, perhaps their most durable player, missed four of the six games against the Rays and Yankees.
- Kevin Youkilis played left field in Yankee Stadium twice.
- The Red Sox did not score for 31 consecutive innings, their longest drought in more than 25 years.
- The Red Sox called up Junichi Tazawa as an emergency reliever and were forced to debut him in the 14th inning of a scoreless game. An inning later, he allowed a walk-off home run to Alex Rodriguez.
- Brad Penny, tonight’s starter, has gone 1-3 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts since the break.
- Shortstop Jed Lowrie re-injured his wrist and went on the disabled list for the second time this season.
- Jack McCormick, the Red Sox' traveling secretary, got sick.
Is anything missing from that list? It’s difficult to keep track.
The Red Sox return home tonight and hope to use Fenway Park as an elixir, but their schedule offers no mercy. The Tigers in these four games will send All-Star Edwin Jackson (8-5, 2.62 ERA), Rick Porcello (10-7, 4.30), Armando Galarraga (6-10, 5.23), and Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.45) to the mound.
The Sox will head back on the road after the four-game series, a trip that will take them to Texas and Toronto. Against the Rangers, the Sox are 1-5 this year. The schedule does not let up, but the Red Sox can find some solace in that their luck should turn, if only because there is little else left that can go wrong.