It's not been a fun ride. 159 games, 90 losses, plenty of despair, and more injuries than you can shake a stick at. The 2012 Red Sox season is, ultimately, one to forget.
But over these last three games they'll have a chance to give fans something to remember.
The Sox are in New York to wrap up their season with three games against the Yankees. Hanging in the balance: control of the A.L. East, and a chance to avoid a one-game playoff against the other wild card winner. It's either going to be Baltimore or New York facing that dangerous game--hopefully the Sox can make sure it's the Yankees who are at risk.
Boston Red Sox (69-90) vs. New York Yankees (92-67)
Monday, October 1, 7:05 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42 ERA)
The series will start with the best each team has to offer, disappointing though that offering may be for the Red Sox. Not even a complete game shutout would see Clay Buchholz' ERA drop below 4.00, thanks to his mediocre night against the Rays. Still, New Yankee Stadium is as good a proving ground as any for a guy who could really use a positive end to his season.
CC Sabathia will start Monday's game knowing that he's pitching to avoid going on four days rest in a wild card playoff game. As much as he looked to be slowing heading into the last weeks of the season, he showed he can still get it done by taking it to the Athletics and Twins. The Sox aren't any more threatening than Minnesota, so he'll just have to avoid being completely off his game to give the Yankees a good shot in this one.
Tuesday, October 2, 7:05 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (9-14, 4.94 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02 ERA)
The second game, on the other hand, will be a contest between the greatest disappointments of the teams. Lester, of course, has seen his stock collapse from top lefty to struggling mediocrity, and will have a lot to prove come 2013. All he can do now is avoid embarrassing himself against New York--one game can hardly save this campaign.
Nova, meanwhile, has pitched himself comfortably out of a spot in the playoff rotation. He's not been able to keep a team scoreless through an outing since June 11 against Atlanta, and his lowest monthly ERA since then has been a 5.97 in July. The Sox aren't a tough lineup, but Nova is just a disaster right now, and for them not to at least give Lester a shot would be a serious failure.
Wednesday, October 3, 7:05 p.m. EST
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-6, 7.68 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (15-11, 3.34 ERA)
This is almost a poetic matchup to end the year. Headed into the offseason, Hiroki Kuroda represented hope. The Sox were going to pick up a couple of pitchers looking for one year deals--Kuroda the top target amongst them--and ride their still-amazing lineup to redemption.
Instead, Kuroda went to the Yankees along with Michael Pineda in one terrible night of moves. Red Sox fans following along online were, at best, stunned. And while the Pineda move hasn't exactly gone according to plan, Kuroda has been everything they could have asked for and more. He would have been just what the doctor ordered for a Sox team that just could not settle their rotation.
Who did we get instead? Daniel Bard, Aaron Cook, and ultimately Daisuke Matsuzaka. Perhaps the most reviled player currently on the Sox, Matsuzaka and his terrible pitching will be gone from the team once and for all after this start, and good riddance. Hopefully the Sox and Orioles will have gotten the job done by now, because with Daisuke on the mound, there's not much reason to hope they'll be able to do so Wednesday.