The nightmare scenario has been realized, and that's an understatement. With a nine game lead at the beginning of September, the Boston Red Sox did their very best to duplicate the monumental collapse of the New York Mets in September of 2007. And they may very well have succeed.
The Mets were in a similar situation, owning a 83-62 record (21 games over .500) and a seven-game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies on September 12. They only won five more games that month, finishing with an 88-74 record, and yes, one game behind the Phillies in the NL East.
Not only is the Red Sox lead bigger, but the collapse has spanned a greater amount of time. However, unlike the Mets, the Sox still have two more chances to avoid the final stage of the collapse - missing the playoffs entirely.
Boston, in the midst of a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles, has two more games left against the O's. If they win out, the very worst they can do is wind up in a one-game playoff for the AL Wild Card title. If they lose out, well, it's likely they'll be sitting on the couch this October.
It's actually quite an anomaly that Boston has held onto their lead for so long. In all reality, the way the Red Sox have played this September - posting a 6-19 record - they should have lost their lead in about a nine-game span.
However, the Rays have done their part to shoot themselves in the foot, prolonging the Red Sox' lead, if only for a little while longer. Tampa Bay has gone 15-10 in September, losing critical games along the way, giving Boston a chance to pull away.
Yet the Red Sox have taken those opportunities to put the Rays away for good and have thrown them away. All along, Boston has had time on their side to drive the final strike through the Rays. Alas, they have failed.
It's still completely possible that the Red Sox find their way into the playoffs, but based on the way they've performed (if you can even call such a collapse a performance), it seems more likely they won't, and it's probably for the best.
Maybe such a gigantic collapse would be good for the Sox. It would certainly teach them a lesson about being content with their own success. Of course, it's one that would benefit them next season.
For now, there's two more chances to make this right. Time's ticking, Sox.