This is truly ‘Last Stand Week’ for the Red Sox

The Red Sox are back in New York to face Derek Jeter and the Yankees later this week.

It will, until the Red Sox return to the postseason, remain the scene of the crime. The Red Sox return to Baltimore tonight, the scene of the final, painful night of the 2011 season. And once again, Camden Yards is the crucible in which a postseason bid can either wither and die, or be re-born for a final, frantic seven-week run at redemption.

Call it Last Stand Week. The Red Sox face the Orioles for three games, then travel to New York for another three against the AL East-leading Yankees. And while hopes for winning the division are all but eliminated, with the Red Sox trailing by 11 ½ games with 48 to play, the Wild Card remains tenuously in play.

One of the two teams occupying Wild Card position are the Orioles, who have defied the odds and remained in the thick of the race, holding – along with division-mates Tampa Bay – a 5½-game lead over the Red Sox.

Of course, the Red Sox’s real problem entering the final 48 is the sheer number of teams the Red Sox must hurdle to claim a Wild Card slot. Besides leaders Baltimore and Tampa, the A’s, Tigers and Angels also stand between Boston and October.

But the Red Sox can only control who they play – and who they beat. And a sweep of the Orioles this week is all-but-mandatory if the Red Sox truly want to make this interesting.

It will not be easy. Injuries continue to decimate the franchise, with star-in-waiting Will Middlebrooks done for season after having his wrist broken on Friday night. David Ortiz is not close to returning, either, putting even more pressure on an embattled pitching staff to carry a sizeable load.

“It’s tough. It’d be a lot better if we were winning two out of every three games,” said Josh Beckett, the poster boy for Red Sox futility, who starts tonight in what is arguably the biggest game since Game 162 last September. “It’s been tough on all of us.”



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