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Red Sox notebook

Few bumps in playoff road

Rangers’ schedule appears tougher

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / September 15, 2009

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While scoreboard watching seems to be the norm around the Red Sox clubhouse these days, with the Rangers four games back in the wild-card race, it doesn’t quite extend to the schedule.

But if the Sox were to check out the schedule, perhaps they would be cheered about their chances for making the playoffs. They have a significantly easier road than the Rangers, with games against some of the dregs of the American League, including Kansas City, Baltimore, and Cleveland.

“I’ll put it this way: If we’re playing good, you feel confident even going against tough teams,’’ Mike Lowell said.

“I think if you’re playing playoff-contending teams the whole time, there’s a little extra oomph on both sides. If you’re playing teams that are out of it, sure, it’s a little less. Some of those organizations are trying to see what they have for next year. So they might be trying out young guys. So there is a difference.’’

The aggregate record of the Sox’ six remaining opponents (Angels, Orioles, Royals, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Indians) was 419-437 (.489) heading into last night’s games. The Sox have six games left against the Angels and Yankees, the only opponents with winning records. The Rangers, on the other hand, will spend the last three weeks playing the A’s, Angels, Rays, and Mariners, who have an aggregate record of 446-409 (.522). Texas has 13 games left against teams with records above .500, though the Rays are barely hanging on to that distinction.

But the schedule doesn’t affect just the Sox and Rangers. There are those other teams, the ones long out of the race, the ones already planning for 2010.

“I was in Pittsburgh for so long, and those teams at this point in the year, the one thing you have left to play for is you’re playing teams that have to play for something,’’ Jason Bay said. “The ‘spoiler’ term is a little overblown at times, but it makes those teams play for something, I guess you could say, rather than just rolling over.’’

Not that Bay was rallying teammates at the end of those seasons with the Pirates. But in seasons when all was lost, there was a better feeling leaving the park after a win against a contending team than another dispiriting loss in a season of them.

“We don’t sit in the clubhouse and have a ‘Hey, let’s play spoiler’ speech,’’ Bay said. “But at the same time, you haven’t been playing for anything for a long time, you do get a little satisfaction out of beating those teams however many times, watching that lead dwindle.

“Hey, they’re sweating a little bit. You go home and you feel a little bit better because, like I said, when you’ve been out of it for a while, that’s really what you have to play for.’’

The Sox are in a better position than the Rangers, but that doesn’t mean they are interested in going over opposing teams’ records and getting overconfident. The Sox are playing well right now, and that is what matters to them.

“I think I purposely don’t want to look ahead because I think we need to focus on the importance of the games right now,’’ Lowell said. “Even in April and May, I don’t really look ahead that much.’’

Angels appear
Manager Terry Francona spent a short Saturday night ensconced in his office, sleeping on his couch, and preparing for the Angels, a team the Sox haven’t seen in four months. In the early going - so long ago now - the Sox went 2-4 against the Angels, their likely opponent in the postseason. But the Angels return today, beginning one of their toughest stretches of the season, as they go through Boston and Texas, then head home to face the Yankees. If the Sox do indeed meet the Angels in the postseason, it would be for the third straight year. The Sox won both previous series, even though in 2008 they lost eight of nine to the Angels in the regular season. “We haven’t seen them, it seems like it’s been a long time,’’ Francona said. “They’ve played some good baseball in the meantime.’’

Playoff tickets
Registration for a random drawing for playoff tickets starts today at noon at redsox.com. Those who are selected will be notified Sept. 22 and will get the chance to buy the tickets online Sept. 25. A limited number of tickets also will be available for purchase by telephone starting at 3 p.m. Sept. 25. The limit will be one game and two tickets.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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