The Boston Red Sox are in the thick of a wild race, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way down to the wire.

After two straight last-place finishes, all we hoped for was meaningful September baseball. We’ve got it. The Red Sox are one game out of first place in the AL East and sitting atop the wild-card race.

Of course, now that we’re here we want more. The Red Sox have a chance to do something this October, and we won’t be satisfied with a one-and-done playoff appearance.

There are two ways to do that: the Sox must win the division and avoid the wild card one-game playoff, or win that elimination game to move on to the division series.

It won’t be easy. This has become a wild race, but the Sox are holding their own. After ripping into Oakland pitching for 27 runs in two nights the Sox had moved into a tie with the defending champion Blue Jays at the top of the division.

Then came Sunday, and another excruciating loss. Eduardo Rodriguez was flirting with a no-hitter, and thought he had the eighth inning in the books as he headed to the dugout. Not so fast. A video review changed the call, the A’s had a hit, and one inning later Oakland walked off with a 1-0 win.

Taking 2 of 3 from any team, especially on the road, is good enough to get you where you want to go. Yet the Sox have a maddening habit of suffering the kind of losses that stick with you. And a habit of losing those games at the end of a series.

Two weeks ago the Sox had won 7 of 9 on a challenging trip and were surging up the standings. Then they lost back-to-back games to last-place Tampa Bay, falling 4-3 and 8-6. They came home with a more-than-respectable 7-4 record for the trip, but the stench of those two losses hung in the air.

Remarkably, Sunday’s game was the fourth time this season the Sox had committed an error that allowed their opponent to walk off with a win. For a team in the thick of the playoff race, that is a stunning statistic.

“Any time you’re walked off, there’s a deflating feeling in that,” said Manager John Farrell. “When you have a miscue involved in there, it stings a little bit more.”

So the Sox rolled into San Diego with a wild-card lead, but a game back in the East. They lost 2-1 on Monday to the Padres, another last-place team with the type of pitching staff the Sox feast on. The big test looms this weekend when Boston rolls into Toronto for a showdown with the first-place Jays.

Like the Sox, the Jays have issues. They’ve got the bulk of last season’s record-setting offense back together, but they also have an inconsistent pitching staff. This is the first of two series remaining between the two contenders, with the next coming the first weekend of October at Fenway Park.

The Sox have managed to battle through a tough schedule (they played 43 games in 44 days and had a stretch of 22 road games in 28 days.) They’ve shown they have the depth to overcome injury – Clay Buchholz will once again get called on with Steven Wright injured, and Yoan Moncada has provided the spark the Sox were getting from Andrew Benintendi before he was injured.

All of that has gotten them this far. Now that we’re this close to the finish line, just being in contention won’t be enough. This team needs to show it’s better than that.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.