If it's coming, Red Sox run must start soon

The Red Sox have dropped three straight, seven of nine and are at their lowest point since mid-June (three games under .500; 55-58). They sit 11 games back in the AL East and 5 1/2 out in the wild card race, behind five teams. Coolstandings.com estimates the Sox have a 9.3 percent chance of reaching the postseason.

Still, Bobby Valentine insists his team is just one good run away from being a playoff contender. With 49 games to go, is harboring October hopes realistic?

Let’s examine the numbers.

For the first time, two AL teams will be awarded wild-card spots, which works in Boston’s favor (it’s about the only thing working in their favor). The team currently second in the wild card standings (Detroit) has a winning percentage of .536. Projecting that out for the remaining slate, that brings their win total to about 87.

Assuming it will take about 87 wins to earn a playoff spot (again, that’s assuming no one runs away with the race), the Red Sox would need to go 32-17 over their final 49 games. That would mean playing .653 baseball over the next month and a half.

Is that realistic? They haven’t played at close to that for any stretch this season, but they did have such a run in 2011 (before imploding in September, of course). From June 3-July 30, 2011, the Red Sox were the best team in baseball, going 35-14 (.714) over a 49-game stretch that started with a 16-game stretch in which they were 14-2.

Do you think this Red Sox team has that in them? All signs point to no.

Odds are in their favor, however, to at least win tonight’s game in Cleveland. The Red Sox are starting Clay Buchholz, who has been the team’s most reliable pitcher since the All-Star break, against a 28-year-old named Chris Seddon who has made five starts in his entire major league career (and has a 7.11 career ERA).

In five starts since the break, Buchholz has a 1.98 ERA, though he has just one win to show for it. The other starters -- Aaron Cook (4.97 ERA), Felix Doubront (5.74), Josh Beckett (6.75) and Lester (8.79) -- have been markedly worse.

The other silver lining has been Franklin Morales, who has made two starts since the break and has given up just one earned run in 11 innings. He’s going to make another start Saturday but his rotation spot isn’t guaranteed beyond that.

Even if the Sox go 5-4 over the final nine games of their road trip, that leaves them needing a 30-10 record (.750) the rest of the way to have a realistic chance at a playoff spot. So there is some urgency. The comeback has to start now ... as in, tonight.

With Buchholz and Morales on the hill the next two days facing a going-nowhere Indians club, the odds will never be more in their favor. And if David Ortiz returns from the disabled list Sunday, it would mark the first time all season Valentine has been able to pencil in the lineup he thought he’d have all season.

The Red Sox going on any kind of run still seems like a long shot, but if it’s going to happen, there’s no time like the present.