But the Red Sox were able to spend those 10 games of credit to:
give Matsuzaka and Okajima some much-needed rest (last night, Dice looked as good as he has all year);Having the ability to do all of these things will make the Red Sox a stronger team in October. So imagine Theo and Francona trading a game or two in the standings for each of these things.
give Ortiz time to rest his right knee (he's hitting .388/.514/.800 in September);
not rush Manny back from his oblique injury (he's 5-for-9 with a .636 OBP since coming back and has had no trouble running the bases);
not rush Youkilis back from his numerous bruises;
not have to push Beckett to throw 120-125 pitches (3.01 ERA since August 1);
not have to use Papelbon three games in a row (even with an additional month of work this season, he's thrown about 100 fewer pitches than last year); and
be able to give occasional days off to Pedroia, Varitek, Drew and Lowell.
The shrinking lead was the cause of much annoyance -- not panic, though, as the Sox's playoff spot was never seriously in doubt -- but it seems like a very fair trade.