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So the Boston Red Sox have been out of the playoff race seemingly for months now, making these final dreadful days meaningless, right? Fear not, as the Red Sox are actually engulfed in a captivating race down the stretch with the Houston Astros – a race against history. Sadly, it's not the good kind of history for Red Sox fans.
The Astros were an 111-loss disaster last season, easily finishing last in the majors. As ESPN's Jayson Stark points out in his discussion of how once mighty teams have quickly fallen, there has never been a team that lost 111+ games in a season that followed that up by winning more games than the reigning World Series Champions. Only 11 teams have ever lost that many games in a season where there was a World Series and the following season those teams finished an average of 31 games behind the champs. The closest any of those teams got was the 2004 Detroit Tigers, who finished 11 games back of a Florida Marlins team that drastically reshaped it's roster after winning the title.
The Boston Red Sox (66-86) wrap up their three game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (81-70), looking to avoid a sweep. Boston has been outscored 13-1 so far in this series, living up to their status as the lowest scoring team in the AL.
Clay Buchholz was bounced after only four innings, giving up five runs (four earned), including a pair of solo home runs. That snapped a season long four-game streak of quality starts for Buchholz and handed him his first loss in nearly a month. Pittsburgh broke the game wide open in the 5th by roughing up Steven Wright for four more runs, including a three-run homer from Ike Davis.
Boston has the 5th worst record in the majors and the third worst run differential (-93). The Red Sox are 9-10 in Interleague play heading into tonight's game, which will be their last against the NL this season. They need a win tonight to extend their streak to 12 straight seasons without a losing record against the senior circuit. Since that winning stretch began in 2003, Boston leads the majors with a .635 winning percentage in Interleague play.
Anthony Ranaudo continues to be plagued by the long ball, giving up a pair of homers to account for all three runs he surrendered. He's now given up 10 home runs this season in only 32.1 innings. Of the 19 earned runs he's allowed this season, 14 have scored due to a home run. He's allowing 3.9 HR/9, which is more than double the ratio (1.5 HR/9) of Hector Noesi, who leads the AL in home runs allowed with 27. Needless to say, keeping the ball in the park needs to be a priority for Ranaudo moving forward.
Clay Buchholz (8-8, 5.19 ERA) takes the mound for Boston. He's finally found a groove, with four straight quality starts – his longest streak of the season. He's won three straight starts, giving up 2 runs or less in each of them.
You know him best for his performance as Walter White on the critically acclaimed hit show Breaking Bad, but Bryan Cranston can now be found helping TBS promote this year's MLB postseason.
Cranston's one-man show imitates several infamous moments in MLB postseason history, including Carlton Fisk waving the ball fair on his memorable home run from Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. That wasn't the only time the Boston Red Sox were featured in his act though. David Ortiz's game tying grand slam from last year's ALCS against the Detroit Tigers was also on display – complete with a cardboard cutout representing Torii Hunter flipping over into the bullpen and another of Boston police officer Steven Horgan with his arms in the air in celebration.
Red Sox Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez also make a cameo appearance to coach Cranston on his pitching form – which seems to be taken straight from the Bugs Bunny school of pitching ("any actor who tells you that he is not inspired by Bugs Bunny is a liar"). Pedro also helps show Cranston the proper way to raise a championship trophy over his head – which we all know Pedro has experience doing.
The Boston Red Sox (66-84) continue their road trip with a visit to the Pittsburgh Pirates (79-70). This will be the Red Sox first trip to PNC Park since 2011 and the team is 3-3 against the Pirates in this ball park.
Pittsburgh is 3.5 games behind the NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals, but they currently sit in the second Wild Card spot. The Milwaukee Brewers are hot on their trail at only two games back in the loss column, but the Pirates are also only two losses behind the San Francisco Giants for the first Wild Card spot. So they are just as likely to move up to having home field advantage in a one-game Wild Card game as they are to fall out of the postseason.
The Red Sox trail the Tampa Bay Rays by six games with only a dozen left to play, which almost assuredly means they will finish in last place in the AL East. If so, they would become the first MLB team ever to go from last-place, to first-place and back to last again. Boston needs to win at least 4 of their remaining games in order to finish with a better record than the dreadful Bobby Valentine team of 2012.