Boston Red Sox

CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 29: Oscar Mercado #35 of the Cleveland Indians scores the go-ahead run on an interference call in the eighth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field on August 29, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians won 7-5. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The Boston Red Sox may be too far behind the Tampa Bay Rays to catch them in the AL East. But they still need to win games in order to maintain their Wild Card spot, and they enter the crucial series on a sour note after a loss in Cleveland marked by controversy.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, after Cleveland’s Austin Hedges smacked a game-tying home run, pinch hitter Yu Chang hit a line drive down the left field line that sent left fielder Oscar Mercado around to home. Mercado appeared to be easily tagged out, but the home plate umpire ruled that Red Sox second baseman Yairo Munoz interfered with him while running from second base to third. Therefore, Mercado was ruled safe to give the Indians the go-ahead run.

On top of the struggles of the Red Sox bullpen headlined by trade deadline addition Austin Davis, starter Tanner Houck set the staff back a bit heading into St. Petersburg with only 5 1/3 innings on Sunday.

“Today was going to be a tough one as far as the bullpen, trying to survive in a sense. That’s why we were so aggressive yesterday with a few guys, and we ended up pulling that off,” said Manager Alex Cora, via “But today, it had to be perfect, and it wasn’t.”

Entering Monday, the Red Sox sit a virtually insurmountable eight games behind the Rays in the AL East. But they can certainly stand to win every game possible, as they sit two games behind the Yankees for the No. 1 wild card spot, and only 2.5 games ahead of the A’s for the No. 2 wild card.

The Red Sox have no games remaining against Oakland on the 2021 regular season schedule, but will host the Yankees at Fenway Park for a three-game series starting Sept. 24. They also have six winnable games left against the Orioles. But they also have a tough slate with seven games against the Rays, including this upcoming series from Monday-Thursday, and three against the White Sox.

Unfortunately, they enter their latest crucial stretch needing to rebound from what Cora called “a tough one” in Cleveland.

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