In any other season, the Salem Red Sox would be one win away from a momentous celebration.
The Sox close the regular season with six home games against Delmarva beginning Tuesday, needing just one victory to clinch the Low-A East North Division. But unlike other years, that wouldn’t be enough to secure their place in the playoffs.
A revised postseason structure for 2021 renders the league’s three divisions moot. Only the top two teams in the league — regardless of division – qualify for next week’s best-of-five Low-A East championship series, and the Sox still have work to do on that front.
South Division champion Charleston (80-34) already has clinched the top record in the league. If the RiverDogs seem unfamiliar to you, that’s probably because the Sox never played them this season. Another quirk of 2021.
Four teams remain mathematically alive for the final playoff spot. Salem (69-45) has the league’s second-best record – one game ahead of Down East (68-46). The Wood Ducks open a challenging six-game home series against Charleston on Tuesday.
Carolina (65-49), which trails Salem by four games, is on the road at sub-.500 Fayetteville. Division-rival Delmarva (64-50) is five games behind the Red Sox.
So the Sox can eliminate one challenger with a victory over the Shorebirds on Tuesday. Then they could go to work on the rest.