Folks fret a lot about the national sports media—we suppose this includes Deadspin—overcovering Boston sports. When it comes to John Lackey's personal calamities, we pay attention with good reason. But maybe the Red Sox's collapse, hanging over all of Lackey's baggage, is too big a deal. There's another 89-70 wild card leader chased by an 88-71 team, and this squad is much more likely to blow its once-seemingly-insurmountable lead.
We're speaking of the Atlanta Braves, who had an 8.5-game wild card lead on September 5. They're 5-10 in their last 15 games, while the Cardinals have gone 16-7 in September. That's Red Sox and Rays-y, minus the theatrics, with, like, Octavio Dotel playing the role of Desmond Jennings.
Thing is, Boston has three games left against Baltimore, while Tampa plays its three against New York. Our fanciful imaginations might suggest that of course the reeling Sox would lose to Baltimore, and of course those vengeful, wily Yankees would gleefully throw themselves under the Tampa Bay streamroller. But—as though you need me to tell you—the Orioles are terrible. The Yankees are really good. The Orioles will send Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton, and Alfredo Simon, an aggressively average troika, to face Beckett, Bedard, and Lester. Sure, the Yankees will start Hector Noesi tonight, but they'll still have the wrecking crew in the lineup.
Compare this with St. Louis's eminently winnable three-gamer against the woeful Astros, who somehow managed to lose by 16 runs yesterday and not interest anyone in the process. Kevin Milwood hit a two-run homer, which scored only one run fewer than all of the Astros scored. Kevin Kouzmanoff hit two homers. All of this is to say that Houston is terrible, the caliber of team the Orioles would defeat routinely. St. Louis has a great chance to sweep this series, even though Houston will start Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.
But the Braves are facing the Phillies, who, despite a September slump, are still the best team in the National League. Atlanta lost to Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler this weekend, and now they have to hold a one-game lead while battling Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and an undetermined Philly starter. (Cole Hamels was supposed to start, but instead he'll pitch in relief.) That doesn't seem easy.
Or look at the numbers: The Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds Report has St. Louis with a 28.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, compared with Tampa Bay's 9.8 percent.
If you like rubbernecking, look away from Boston and focus your eyes down South. This'll be grisly.