BOSTON — Let's get ahead of ourselves: a month from Thursday, Fenway Park could be the tipping point for something strange.
When the schedule came out, the potential for weirdness was always there. But as September arrives, the possibility for a bizarre end of the season in the American League is growing.
The Astros (80-53) visit Boston (76-57) for a four-game series to end the regular season, Sept. 29-Oct. 1. Houston has led the pace in the AL for a long time. The separation, however, has dwindled. The Indians (76-56) have been charging, with seven straight wins, and may be the most complete team around.
So let’s say the Indians do wind up with the best record in the AL. The other presumed division winners, the Astros and Sox, would play each other for at least seven straight games, and as many as nine: four to end the regular season, and then up to five more in the Division Series.
Sox manager John Farrell played the old day-at-a-time card Thursday when talking about the importance of the Yankees series that was about to get underway.
"The overriding feeling in our clubhouse and the approach of our players, they don't get past today," Farrell said.
That's nice. But as teams advance scout one another this month, there will be people charged with thinking about this very topic: would the teams act any differently in those regular season games? It's all hypotheticals, for now. But the standings are a road map.
Sometimes starting pitchers are held out of games against division-rivals in spring training. There could be too much on the line — seeding, if not a division title for the Sox — to skip someone in that final four-game series.
At the very least, Sox-Astros is the most compelling regular-season pair left on the schedule for Boston after this weekend.
Four games against the Yankees concludes a spin through a meat-grinder patch of the schedule. The Sox faced the Indians twice, the Yankees twice and had some Orioles mixed in.
Up next, the Sox have the Blue Jays, the Rays, the A’s and then the Blue Jays again. None of those teams were above .500 entering Thursday. The Orioles have been streaking and also just swept the Sox, so their meeting at Camden Yards Sept. 18-20 could have significance.