Forget magic numbers and leads for the Red Sox. What was once a marathon to the wild-card clinch is now a two-game sprint, with the winner taking all the spoils.

The Orioles played spoiler again last night, upsetting the Sox. That, combined with Tampa Bay's win over the Yankees, moved the Rays into a tie for the AL's fourth playoff spot.

Technically, Boston's magic number is three. But that's overcomplicating things at this point.

Each team has two regular-season games left -- the Sox against Baltimore, the Rays against New York. If Boston and Tampa post the same record over those two games (2-0, 1-1 or 0-2), they'll go to a one-game playoff on Thursday. If either wins even one more than the other (say, Tampa sweeps but Boston goes 1-1), they'd earn the wild card outright.

 

There can be no clinch tonight. The earliest we'll know the winner is around 10:10 p.m. tomorrow night.

Simple. Terrifying for Sox fans, but simple

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