By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox suffered a late night loss Monday in Seattle, and are now teetering in the AL playoff picture. It’s setting up what should be a dramatic final few weeks of the regular season.

With a 5-4 loss to the Mariners, mixed with a Yankees win over the Twins and a Blue Jays win over the Rays, the Red Sox dropped into a tie with New York for the American League’s second Wild Card spot. Boston entered the night tied with Toronto for the top spot in the Wild Card race, but the Blue Jays now own a one-game lead over their AL East counterparts.

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In losing for the sixth time in their last eight games, the Red Sox also gave up some ground to a few other postseason hopefuls that are nipping at their heels. Seattle is now just two games back of Boston and New York, and the inactive Oakland A’s wake up Tuesday morning just 2.5 games back.

With such a congested Wild Card race, the Red Sox can’t afford many more missteps between now and Oct. 3. Their final 17 games is a mixed bag of bad teams and teams fighting for a playoff spot, which at this point, could go either way for Boston.

The Red Sox have two more games in Seattle before the team returns to Fenway Park for an eight-game homestand. The Red Sox will host the dreadful Baltimore Orioles and the New York Mets (72-73) before welcoming the New York Yankees into town for a huge three-game series Sept. 24-26. Boston closes the season on the road with three in Baltimore and a three-game set against the Nationals (59-84) in Washington.

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Six games against the worst team in baseball, plus three more against the Nats, should help Boston’s postseason cause. Getting several players back from the COVID list should also provide a much-needed boost, especially when Chris Sale is able to return to the rotation.

But the Blue Jays are the hottest team in baseball, winners of four straight and 15 of their last 17 games, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. Toronto does have five games left against the Rays, but they also have seven games against the Twins and close the season with three games in Baltimore. The Jays also have three games against the Yankees, which could help the Red Sox. But at the moment, it doesn’t feel like the Wild Card game taking place at Fenway Park is a realistic outcome for the Red Sox.

A visit to Toronto feels much more likely, with the Yankees finishing on the outside looking in — so long as Boston takes care of business when the Yanks come to town in a few weeks. New York has three-game sets in Baltimore and at home against the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers before their series in Boston. And after a three-game set in Toronto, the Yankees close things out with three against the AL East-leading Rays in New York. If the Yankees want a playoff spot, they’re really going to have to earn it that final week of the regular season.

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After Monday night’s loss, the Red Sox sit with a 62.3 percent chance of making the postseason, right between the Blue Jays (72.7 percent) and the Yankees (56.1 percent). Boston has very little margin for error, but the Red Sox still control their own postseason fate over the next three weeks. Staff