ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- How early has it gotten late for the Red Sox, who are six games under .500 (20-26) and bring a seven-game losing streak on the road for three games here against the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by two in Atlanta against the Braves?
Put it this way: The Red Sox have gone to the postseason 21 times in 114 seasons of Hub hardball, winning eight World Series and 13 American League pennants. Of those 21 postseason participants, none has ever been more than four games under .500 during the course of a season. The 2009 Sox, who qualified as the wild card that season, fell four games under .500, but bottomed out on April 14 that season. Seventeen of the 21 Sox postseason qualifiers were never more than two games under .500.
Only one Sox postseason team had a longer losing streak than the current Sox have. That was the '05 team, another wild-card qualifier, which lost eight in a row, but that team was never more than two games under .500 the entire season.
(Meanwhile, the Red Sox need a win Friday night here to avoid matching their longest skid -- eight games -- of the Bobby V era.)
But while it has no precedent in Sox history, it hardly rates as an impossible deficit to overcome. Of the 14 World Series winners since 2000, two, the 2003 Florida Marlins and 2002 Angels, were further underwater than the Sox are. The Marlins were 10 games below .500 on May 22; the Angels were eight games below .500 on April 23.
And of the 58 teams that have qualified for the American League playoffs since 2000, 11 teams have been six games under .500 or more at some point during the seasons in which they advanced to October. That's 18.9 percent of the field.
The most recent team to do so was Jonny Gomes' Oakland Athletics in 2012. The Athletics were nine games under on June 10 and still won 94 games to finish first in the AL West. Another Oakland team, the 2001 Athletics, were the only team to fall 10 games under .500 and still qualify; they were 10 below .500 on May 1 and still won 102 games.
Two Yankees teams, in '05 and '07, were as many as eight games under .500 and made it to October. The '05 Yanks won 95 games; the '07 Yanks, eight games below .500 on May 29, wound up winning 94 games.