The Red Sox's dreadful month of September got even worse on Monday when the team dropped to a tie for the AL Wild Card spot with the Tampa Bay Rays following a 6-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The loss builds up more and more pressure on the Red Sox and manager Terry Francona in what would be the worst late-season collapse in baseball history. Entering into September 3rd, the Red Sox had a nine game lead over the Rays, but a stunningly bad 6-19 record in September now has the team on a verge of an epic collapse.
No team has ever blown a nine game lead in the month of September and if the team does make history, it could be Francona's job. Worcester Telegram columnist Bill Ballou wrote on Sunday that if the Sox miss the playoffs that Francona will likely be fired.
Red Sox management firing the man that guided the team to two World Series titles within the decade would be a bit of a shock, but missing the playoffs might demand it. After adding big-name offensive players Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford in the off-season, most pundits tabbed Boston as a World Series favorite.
Before the season started ESPN asked its 45 baseball experts to pick playoff winners and the experts overwhelmingly picked the Red Sox to win the World Series. 45 out of 45 picked the Sox to win the AL East, 42 out of 45 had the team making it to the World Series, and 33 out of 45 picked the team to win the World Series.
Those predictions undoubtedly upped the pressure a bit at Fenway Park and now some are claiming Francona has lost control of the clubhouse.
A lot of the team's struggles have stemmed from pitching issues, though. Clay Buchholz has been out since mid-June with a stress fracture in his vertebrae, John Lackey has been a colossal disappointment and now is the subject of TMZ reports, and the rest of the staff hasn't been able to make up the differences.
Last night in a game of utmost importance, Francona turned to ace Josh Beckett, but the former World Series MVP was unable to get the job done. A sixth inning inside the park home run to No. 9 hitter Robert Andino ultimately sealed the team's loss -- pushing the fate of the season on the last two games.
With two games to go in the regular season, the Red Sox must now count on Erik Bedard and Jon Lester to guide the team to victories. Interestingly enough, the last time the Red Sox won two consecutive games -- exactly one month ago -- were with Bedard and Lester.
The Sox need to find some way to beat the Orioles, who have won four out of the last five games between the two teams, while rooting for its hated rival, New York, to steal a game against the Rays.
The Red Sox shouldn't expect much help from the Yankees, though, as the team has committed to resting its starters ahead of the postseason. The Yankees trotted out little used Hector Noesi last night in the team's loss and will continue to give younger players an opportunity against the surging Rays.
If the Red Sox are going to make the playoffs it will be behind the arms of Bedard and Lester -- not from any help from the Yankees.
While no fan likely would have hoped for the season to rest on those two shoulders heading down this stretch, those two could be the only thing saving the Red Sox from the worst collapse in baseball history.
And if Ballou is to be believed, the only two that could save Terry Francona's livelihood.