Red Sox playoff watch

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
1:23
PM ET
Red Sox record: 92-61

Games left: 9

Lead in AL East: 8 games over Tampa Bay (83-68)

Magic number to win division: 3

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1

Magic number to clinch best overall record in the AL: 8

What does magic number mean?: For example, if Tampa Bay wins all 11 of its remaining games, Boston would have to win three to win the division. Any combination of Sox wins and Rays losses totaling three, and the Sox win the division. So that means the earliest they could win the division is Friday.

How to calculate magic number: You calculate your magic number by looking at the number of games remaining in the season and assuming that your nearest competitor will win all of its remaining games. Then you see how many games you still need to win to ensure the division title even with your nearest competitor winning all of its remaining games.

Overall ranking in league (important for determining home field in playoffs): First, 2½ games ahead of Oakland, 3½ games ahead of Detroit.

If season ended today, teams in playoffs: Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Rays, Rangers.

What about the Yankees?: For the fourth time in the past two weeks, Joe Girardi called on Mariano Rivera for more than a one-inning save, and Rivera got the job done, striking out J.P. Arencibia on three pitches with the winning run on second base for the final out of a four-out save. The Yankees are 2½ games out of a wild-card spot with 10 games left; they must virtually run the table to get in.

Who’s hot?: A year ago last spring, Kevin Gausman was pitching for LSU. Wednesday night, the Orioles’ No. 1 pick in 2012 was in the middle of a playoff race, striking out five Sox batters in two innings, including four in a row. David Ortiz went down on a 99 mph fastball. Mike Napoli whiffed on an 87 mph slider, Mike Carp on a splitter and Daniel Nava on a 98 mph fastball.

Who’s not?: Manny Machado has had a wonderful year for the Orioles, but he has scuffled in September. An 0-for-6 Wednesday night dropped his slash line to .195/.205/.338/.543 for the month.

Red Sox's latest outcome: Lost to the Orioles 5-3 in 12 innings on Wednesday.

Rays' latest outcome: Beat the Rangers 4-3 in 12 innings on Wednesday.

Notable: The Indians remain a half-game out of a wild-card spot after losing to the Royals on Wednesday, but check out this quote from Jason Giambi, the Indians’ elder statesman, and how it sounds like he’s talking about this year’s Red Sox. He’s not. “This is probably the most ultimate team I've ever played for," Giambi said. "There isn't one guy more important than the other. The bench players help the starters, the starters root for the bench guys and the bullpen guys. We've had guys come up from our minor leagues who have made a huge impact in our season ... Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and the list goes on and on."

Playoff format: AL wild-card play-in game on Wednesday, Oct. 2. AL best-of-five division series begins Friday, Oct. 4.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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