The Red Sox are on the edge of mathematical elimination from the playoffs as they head to Toronto to face the Blue Jays in a three-game set.
Despite taking the first game against the Yankees, the Sox proved unable to play spoiler, as the Yankees snagged wins in the next two and stayed even with the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East. The Red Sox, Meanwhile, have been left on the verge. One loss away from ensuring they will not play winning baseball, with an elimination number of two in both the division and wild card race.
The only question is whether the season will come to a mathematical end tonight or tomorrow. One way or another, though, what we've known to be true for months will be locked in stone in the coming days: the 2012 season is a loss.
Boston Red Sox (64-80) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (65-77)
Friday, September 14, 7:07 p.m. EST
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-5, 7.20 ERA) vs. Aaron Laffey (3-5, 4.43 ERA)
The organization has decided to inflict another Daisuke Matsuzaka start upon the fanbase, as if the four-out disaster last time out (against the same Toronto Blue Jays, no less) was not enough. If you're really committed to watching this particular game, do yourself a favor and show up around 8:15. The bottom of the second will just be wrapping up, and you'll likely have been able to skip the awfulness of Daisuke. Just ignore whatever runs scored in the first couple of innings and pretend it's a brand new, 7-inning ball game.
Aaron Laffey isn't particularly good, and against a team like the Red Sox used to be his lack of control could get him in some serious trouble. But the current Red Sox are more likely to swing at a pitch in the dirt than draw a walk, and with Dustin Pedroia still absent, Cody Ross and a couple of random homer threats are all a left-handed pitcher has to worry about.
Saturday, September 15, 1:07 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (11-6, 4.46 ERA) vs. Carlos Villanueva (7-5, 3.48 ERA)
Clay Buchholz' results have suffered with the rest of the team ever since "The Trade." Since his legitimate disaster against the Angels, however, Buchholz has been pitching entirely respectably, even if a few runs have come across every time. Frankly, his efforts deserve better, but the fact that his numbers are even where they are given how badly his year began is impressive enough.
Carlos Villanueva didn't exactly impress when he faced the Red Sox all of five days ago, but he did enough to get the Jays the win. Not exactly a glowing endorsement considering the lineup/team he was facing, but he's certainly not going to have any stauncher opposition to face this time. An effective starter all year, Villanueva should be effective again. The Sox will just have to hope Clay gets the results he deserves to top him.
Sunday, September 16, 1:07 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (9-11, 4.99 ERA) vs. Brandon Morrow (8-6, 3.16 ERA)
Unlike his most recent outings, where Jon Lester has used length to even out some rough early patches, the southpaw managed just 16 outs in his last trip to the mound. Offering up a remarkable seven walks to the Yankees, Lester has given Sox fans more reason to doubt that he's still got the ace of old locked somewhere inside. He'll have to prove himself with a much more impressive outing against the Jays if he doesn't want to see his reputation take a dive back to its lowest points on the season.
Unlike Lester, Brandon Morrow does not have to prove himself after just one bad outing. After all, he's got tons of exceptional performances to his name this year--albeit fewer than he would have given a full, healthy season--and seems to be breaking out as the start that was promised back in Seattle. The Sox will have plenty of trouble keeping pace against the flamethrower out of Santa Rosa.