With deadly Hurricane Ivan bearing down on the gulf coast of Florida, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays make a timely visit to Boston. For the Red Sox, this series should be a tune-up for Hurricane George over the weekend. Red Sox fans know better than to make such assumptions, don’t we? Tampa has some good young, dare I say hungry?, players who would love to play the spoiler. Conversely, it would be very easy for the Sox to “look past” the Devil Rays and have “a letdown”. Cliches? Yes. But not out of the realm of possibility.

The simple fact is that these games count and the Sox must win them. Yes, they must sweep. The Yankees are in a tailspin and it is up to Boston to do everything possible to keep the pressure on before the first of two head-to-head match-ups. By all accounts, these teams appear to be going in different directions. The Sox have played solid defense, pitched superbly and with the exception of running into a couple of career-night pitching efforts, have hit the cover off the ball.

New York, on the other hand, looks ready for the last train to sucksville. They have been winning games, but winning ugly. Beating Baltimore, who they have owned all year, 9-8 is not the sign of a team that will be playing late in October. Last night, the Yankees gave up 17 runs, just a few weeks after being shut out 22-0. Kevin Brown refused to pitch off the mound yesterday because his non-pitching hand was aching – yes, the one he punched a wall with. A-Rod is hitting .239 with runners in scoring position, .200 if there are two outs.

All that being said, the Red Sox are in a position to win the division. Amazing. As they do every year, they have given us a roller-coaster summer and promise to continue it into the fall. Let’s just hope it finally ends up different.