Boston’s Rafael Devers scores on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez during a 6-3 loss the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on Sunday night. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox have been swept out of first place in the American League wild-card race, but they are still in the driver’s seat.

Things couldn’t have gone any worse for them over the weekend. The New York Yankees pounded their way to an 8-3 win Friday, shocked the Sox with an eighth-inning Giancarlo Stanton grand slam Saturday, and then pounced on Boston miscues late in the game on Sunday.

And just like that the Yankees moved into first. Yet the math still favors Boston. With six games remaining they are a game ahead of the Blue Jays. While the Sox face the lowly Baltimore Orioles for three games starting Tuesday, the Jays open up a series with New York.

The only way the Sox could falter in this if they lose the series to Baltimore, a team they have beaten 12 of the last 13 times. Boston finishes the season with three games against Washington, the last-place team in the NL East. The Yankees finish with three against Tampa Bay, and the Blue Jays close with three against Baltimore.

Odds are the Red Sox still will be playing Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the AL wild-card game. It would be the first time they take part in the one-game, winner-take-all affair. Boston has been to the postseason four times in the nine years of the current format, winning the division and moving straight in the AL Division Series each time.

Now the wild-card game sounds perfect to Boston. They would love to be playing on Oct. 5.

In many ways, the Red Sox have no one to blame but themselves for this. Not because of how they played this season, but because of how they played in 2011. The Red Sox went 7-20 in September that season, with the 20th and final loss coming via a ninth-inning blown save from Jonathan Papelbon in Baltimore. That, along with a 12-inning come-from-behind win by the Rays over the Yankees, gave Tampa Bay the wild-card playoff berth and eliminated the Sox.

A similar scenario was unfolding in the National League, where the Cardinals claimed the wild-card spot on that final day as well. They also needed help, with the Braves eliminated after losing in 13 innings.

It was one of the most dramatic nights in baseball history. Four games going on with the final playoff spot in each league up for grabs. Major League Baseball liked it so much, the one-game wild card format was created the next season.

Most players and purists don’t like it. I love it. It creates an instant jolt of energy on the first night of the postseason, a win-or-go-home battle in the first week of October. The survivors settle in for a best-of-five series after that.

It goes against everything the game is built upon. Baseball is played over the long haul, with averages dampening the highs and lows. Elimination games are frenzied affairs where the better team doesn’t necessarily win.

It’s fabulous.

If you don’t like it, go win the division. That’s the only way to avoid it.

That option isn’t available to the Red Sox. Or the Yankees. Or the Blue Jays or Mariners or any other teams that were still holding onto hope over the past week or two.

Instead, they will try to keep winning in an effort to guarantee one more game. After this past weekend, any baseball beyond the regular season sounds like a major victory for the Sox.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN and a Lewiston High School Graduate.


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