Doing the math for true believers

SEATTLE -- The New York Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night dropped them into second place in the AL East, a half-game behind the Rays and six games ahead of the third-place Boston Red Sox, who swept a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners after a 5-1 win Wednesday at Safeco Field.

Do you believe in miracles? Here's what would have to happen for the Red Sox to still qualify for the playoffs.

The Yankees are 88-58; the Red Sox are 82-64. Both teams have 16 games left.

If the Yankees split their remaining games, they would finish 96-66. The Red Sox would have to go 14-2 to tie, 15-1 to finish ahead of them.

The Yankees and Sox have six games left against each other: three in New York Sept. 24-26, three in Fenway Park on the season's final weekend, Oct. 1-3.

The Sox go home for three against Toronto, and three more against the Orioles. The Sox are 11-4 against the Blue Jays, 4-2 in Fenway Park. They're 8-7 against the Orioles, 4-2 in Fenway.

The Yankees go to Baltimore for three against the Orioles. They are 11-4 against Baltimore this season, 4-2 in Camden Yards. Then they go home for four against the Rays. They are 6-8 against the Rays, 2-3 in Yankee Stadium.

After the Sox go to Yankee Stadium for three, they go to Chicago for the first time this season, for four against the White Sox. Earlier this month, in the only meeting between the teams, the Red Sox lost three straight at home to the White Sox.

The Yankees, meanwhile, go to Toronto, for three against the Blue Jays. They are 2-4 in the Rogers Centre.

So, basically the Yankees -- losers of 8 of their last 10 -- need to fall apart for the Sox to sneak past them. The same, of course, is true with the Sox vis-a-vis the Rays, but with the Yanks, they have a bit more control of their own destiny.

Thus, as a public service, we offer you this chart of what it would take for the Sox to overtake the Yankees in the last 2½ weeks of the season.

If Yankees go 11-5, they clinch a playoff spot, regardless of what the Sox do.
If Yankees go 10-6, Sox must go 16-0 to tie.
If Yankees go 9-7, Sox must go 15-1 to tie.
If Yankees go 8-8, Sox must go 14-2 to tie.
If Yankees go 7-9, Sox must go 13-3 to tie.
If Yankees go 6-10, Sox must go 12-4 to tie.
If Yankees go 5-11, Sox must go 11-5 to tie.
If Yankees go 4-12, Sox must go 10-6 to tie.

So, even if the Yankees lost all six games they have left with the Red Sox, if they split their remaining 10 games against other opponents, the Sox would have to go 11-5 just to tie (which would include those 6 wins over New York).

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Red Sox have about a 3.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. Coolstandings.com gives them a 2.9 percent chance.

So, hold off on those October plans for now.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.