The Red Sox are about to get their ultimate reality check

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Who had the tipping point for the 2022 Red Sox coming on Aug. 19 in all of places of Baltimore? Well, here we are.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had repeatedly used Sept. 1 as the fork-in-the-road date to determine if there was still a very real chance for his club to make the postseason. It kind of seems he might want to adjust that calendar a bit.

This two-gamer in Camden Yards (with one more in Williamsport) kind of feels like the be-all, end-all.

The Red Sox head into the weekend five games back of the final Wild Card spot, in no better position than when they entered into their series against the Pirates. If there was ever an example of how this team has absolutely no margin for error, it was the demoralizing 8-2 loss to the woeful team from Pittsburgh.

Sure, the Red Sox won two of three against the Pirates, but that still doesn't seem good enough considering their lot in life. It put them in position against the resurgent Orioles that demands they don't dare take a step back.

Players coming back. Players playing better. Optimism on the horizon. All of it means nothing in the here and now, with the Orioles' series truly defining what's what.

This is obviously a Baltimore club that has emerged as one of this season's best stories.

If the Red Sox are to emerge with a more optimistic narrative come Monday, they are going to have to earn it. This is an Orioles team that will be equally as desperate with wins, sitting 2 1/2 out of a Wild Card spot. And while the trio of starting pitchers being ushered out by Baltimore - Jordan Lyles, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer - isn't going to strike fear into Red Sox' fans' hearts, it's a results business, and the Sox' results against the Orioles have not been great.

Perhaps that sweep of the teams' one-game series last week turned the tide. Sure. Maybe. We will see.

If this conversation is going to start heading in the direction Cora and Co. were hoping for as that Sept. 1 date draws closer, then they will need more from the likes of J.D. Martinez (.149 batting average, .449 OPS since the All-Star break) and Xander Bogaerts (.218/.582 in August). That's just a fact.

Trevor Story is taking batting practice. Matt Strahm looks like he is returning this weekend. The Red Sox have some of their hottest starters - Kutter Crawford, Michael Wacha and Nick Pivetta - going at Camden Yards.

Pittsburgh is now in the rearview mirror. Now the Red Sox are being slapped in the face with three straight American League East teams - Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Clench the jaw. Tighten those abs. We're about to find out exactly how well these Red Sox can take a punch and start finally getting ahead on the scorecards.

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