The Red Sox have already accomplished the hard part, entering Wednesday’s game against the Rays with a chance to catch the Yankees for a share of first place in the American League East.


Now, a real challenge confronts them this weekend. They have to play the Orioles.


The Orioles were 23-53 entering Wednesday, challenging the 1962 Mets for all-time futility. But they’re 5-4 against the Sox, their most wins against any team.


Take away Baltimore’s sweep of the Nationals last weekend (Where’s Strasburg when you really need him?), and the Sox are the only team the Orioles have beaten more than twice.

Not much has made sense for Boston over the season’s first three months. A team touted as defense over offense has scored the most runs in the league. A team that started with five horrible weeks at near full strength has been nearly unbeatable as walking wounded.

But most confounding of all has been their performance against the horrid Birds. With the battle for postseason again a three-horse race in the AL East, the Red Sox can ill afford to let it continue.