Boston’s Alex Verdugo, right, is greeted at home plate by Christian Vazquez after hitting a two-run homer in Seattle on Tuesday night. The Red Sox finished 3-3 on their road trip and now begin their final homestand Friday against Baltimore. Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

After going 3-3 on a tough road trip to Chicago and Seattle, the Boston Red Sox have returned home with a lot at stake.

With 14 games remaining – including eight against the Orioles, Mets and Yankees on the final homestand of the season, which begins Friday – the Red Sox sit at 83-65. They entered Thursday in a virtual tie with the Blue Jays and Yankees in the wild-card race. Though Oakland (3 1/2 games back) and Seattle (4 games back) are still in the mix, it’s basically a three-team race for two spots.

For a Red Sox team that entered 2021 with low expectations, the fact they’re still in the race in mid-September is a win in and of itself – albeit not the final goal.

“Not too many people thought the last homestand of the season was going to mean something,” said Boston Manager Alex Cora. “Now, it means a lot. Hopefully, it’s going to be fun Friday and the rest of the week and we can take care of business.”

Since Aug. 27, the Red Sox have had 12 players – including key pieces like Xander Bogaerts, Chris Sale, Kiké Hernández and Matt Barnes – test positive for COVID-19, but that hasn’t caused the club to cower. Since Hernández registered the club’s first positive test almost three weeks ago, the Red Sox are 10-9. Impressively, despite missing Sale, Barnes and a handful of other players, the Red Sox went 3-3 on their most recent road trip, losing two of three to the White Sox before taking two of three from the Mariners.

“You’ve got to give them credit,” Cora said after Wednesday’s win. “They went on this road trip knowing it was going to be a tough one. We lose a tough one on Sunday, 2-1, then we came here and we didn’t play great but we were able to get two out of three against a good baseball team.”

Nothing is coming easy for the Red Sox these days. Though no players have tested positive since Sunday, every game seems like a heavyweight battle. Five straight games from Tuesday to Sunday were one-run affairs; the last two in Seattle were close until Boston pulled ahead in the late innings.

“It’s playoff baseball. It feels that way,” Cora said. “And it’s fun, to be honest with you. When you give your all, then at the end of the game, you’re exhausted for the right reasons – it’s not COVID or whatever – it’s good.”

After playing nine straight games against postseason contenders, the Sox are about to catch a break in their schedule. Their next five games and 11 of their final 14 come against teams with records worse than .500. Nine of those games are against the last-place Orioles and Nationals.

Sale is set to return from the COVID-19 injured list to pitch the series opener against Baltimore. Considering the Sox are 44-29 this season, the club expects to play its best baseball in front of the Fenway faithful.

“We’re going to have three series at home, a place we expect to win,” said reliever Adam Ottavino. “We’re going to need to win a lot of those games, so hopefully the fans really bring it and we can bring it on the field.”

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