The good news is that the Rays are losing just as frequently down the wild-card stretch as the Red Sox.

The bad news? Someone forgot to tell the Angels to keep fading, too.

The Sox have fallen so far, so fast, they’ve really come back to the pack. At the same time, the Angels had quietly — but dangerously — crept within the same 2.5 games of Boston as the Rays entering play Thursday night.

That means the Sox needed a split screen to scoreboard-watch as they prepared for the final six games of the regular season. That stretch starts Friday night against the ... ahem ... AL East champion Yankees.


Here’s a look at the three-headed race for the AL’s fourth playoff spot.

Red Sox (88-68) — Boston plays all six of its remaining games on the road, split between New York and Baltimore.

Jon Lester, who starts Friday at Yankee Stadium, will make two starts over the final six, while Josh Beckett is scheduled for just one.

That leaves John Lackey, Tim Wakefield and fill-in-the-blank for the other three. Is Steve Ontiveros available?

Rays (85-70 going into Thursday’s late game) — The Rays are home for their final six, with three each against the Blue Jays and Yankees.

Will the Yanks, who have already punched their playoff ticket, give full effort against the Rays next week? Of course they will. They probably want the Red Sox in so they can beat on them in the ALCS.

Angels (85-70 going into Thursday’s late game) — The Angels are also home for their final six games, against Oakland and the Rangers.

The series against Texas was shaping up as a battle royale for the AL West. Now, the Sox almost have to hope the division-leading Rangers stumble against the Mariners this weekend to keep those final three games meaningful.

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