Tuesday September 10, 2013 | 03:23 AM

Nice 7.5-game lead those Red Sox have. But as hardened fans know, especially Boston fans, there is a dreaded word out there.

Collapse.

The make-up of this Red Sox club seems to be resilient to such a horror. But there is still work to be done. And as we point out in TODAY'S COLUMN, that work continues against the devilish Rays.

One update from that column: The Tigers, after a 5-1 loss to the White Sox, are now four games behind Boston in the loss column.

The latest numbers: 

AL EAST
Red Sox 87-58
Rays 78-64 (7.5 games back)
Orioles 77-66 (9)
Yankees 76-68 (10.5)

Boston’s magic number: 12

REMAINING GAMES:
Boston (17): at Rays (3), Yankees (3), Orioles (3), Blue Jays (3), at Rockies (2), at Orioles (3).

Rays (20): Red Sox (3), at Twins (3), Rangers (4), Orioles (4), at Yankees (3), at Blue Jays (3).

Division Leaders
Boston 87-58
Oakland 83-60
Detroit 82-62

Wild Card
Texas 81-62
Tampa Bay 78-64
Baltimore 77-66 (1.5 games back)
Cleveland 77-66 (1.5)
New York 76-68 (3)
Kansas City 75-69 (4)

Assuming Texas (or Oakland) is the top wild card team, that leaves five contenders for the last spot. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler handicaps the race.

Rumors began Monday that the Red Sox picked up the option on Jon Lester's contract for 2014. Apparently that was not true, but who doubts that Boston will do that after the season?

The option is for $13-million, which is less than Boston will pay John Lackey ($15.25-million), Jake Peavy ($14.5-million) or Ryan Dempster ($13.25-million) next year.

Peavy's and Dempster's contracts are up after the 2014 season. The Red Sox have a club option on Lackey for 2015 (at the major league minimum salary because Lackey missed the 2012 season because of elbow surgery).

Clay Buchholz is signed through at least 2015 (with club options for 2016 and 2017).

After that, the Red Sox have a crowd of pitchers to fill in holes in the coming years, including Felix Doubront, in only his second full season.

Brandon Workman, Allen Webster, Steven Wright and Rubby De La Rosa all made their major league debuts this season.

Anthony Ranaudo and Matt Barnes reached Pawtucket this season and show potential to be ready for the majors in the next two years. And the Sea Dogs may have the best pitching prospect, in 21-year-old Henry Owens.

Nice depth.

Ranaudo, by the way, gets the start tonight as Pawtucket begins the International League championship series in Durham, N.C.

About this Blog

Kevin Thomas covers baseball and basketball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 after working for the St. Petersburg Times. He is married to Nancy and they have nine children.

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs on Clearing the Bases

Follow his thoughts on the Boston Celtics and Maine Red Claws on Holding Court


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