Stumble May Not Sink Sox

That the Red Sox' struggles in Toronto this week could be anticipated does not diminish the panic setting in on the message boards and airwaves today. The AL East race, believed to be over months ago, grew tighter for the fourth straight night Wednesday.

While the Blue Jays were beating the Sox again, 6-1, to complete a three-game sweep, the scorching Yankees beat the Orioles, 2-1, in New York to move within 1 ½ games of the Sox in the AL East. The Sox, who led by at least four games every day from May 2 through Sept. 16, haven't been this close to second place since they led the Jays by 1 ½ games Apr. 24.

The easy thing to do is gaze skyward to see if the sky is falling. But as discouraging as the last four days have been, the Sox are still 26-21 since Aug. 1. That's a 90-win pace over the course of a full season.

Even if the Sox continue stumbling, recent history suggests teams that enter the playoffs in the midst of an ice cold stretch—or fritter away most or all of a large division lead—aren't necessarily doomed come October.

Look no further than last year's World Series teams. Both the champion Cardinals and runner-up Tigers were 25-32 after Aug. 1. The Cardinals lost seven in a row from Sept. 20-26, lost 6 ½ games in the standings in eight days from Sept. 21-28 and went 3-9 in their final 12 games. But the Cardinals beat the favored Padres and Mets before cruising past the Tigers in five games.

The Tigers, meanwhile, held at least a share of the AL Central lead for 123 straight days from May 16 through Sept. 29 and led the division by as many as 10 games as late as Aug. 7. But after suffering through two five-game losing streaks over the final two months and losing ground four days in a row three different times, the Tigers were passed on the final day of the season by the Twins…who were promptly swept in the ALDS by the Athletics, who went on to get swept by the Tigers in the ALCS.

The 2005 champion White Sox, meanwhile, were only 31-28 after Aug. 1, lost seven in a row from Aug. 12-20 and lost eight games off their lead—from 9 ½ games to 1 ½ games—from Sept. 7-21. But they won their final five regular season games, ended up six games ahead of the Indians and lost just once in the playoffs on their way to the title.

No team this decade stumbled into the playoffs quite like the 2000 Yankees, who were 3-15 in their final 18 games and ended the regular season on a seven-game losing streak. But the Yankees went solidified their dynastic status by winning the World Series for the third straight year.

And hey, if you're still consumed with the worst-case scenario, look at things this way: This is the Sox' third four-game losing streak this season. The first one was snapped June 7, when Curt Schilling lost his no-hitter with two outs in the ninth. The second was ended Sept. 1, when Clay Buchholz no-hit the Orioles in his second big league start. So with Josh Beckett on the mound Friday against the Devil Rays, bet the "under" in the hits column.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.

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