BALTIMORE -- A heavy dose of uncertainty was in the air for the Red Sox prior to Wednesday night's potential regular-season finale against the Orioles. If Boston and Tampa Bay both either win or lose on Wednesday, the clubs will face off in a one-game tiebreak at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
It was also possible by the end of Wednesday, the Sox would be boarding a flight to either Detroit or Texas to open a best-of-five American League Division Series, which would start Friday.
And the one scenario nobody wanted to think about was the one in which Boston lost and Tampa Bay won, and the Sox would be going back to Boston to start the offseason.
Manager Terry Francona chuckled when asked if he was going to have a potential Game No. 163 starter fly to Tampa ahead of time.
"[Heck] no, they might pitch tonight," Francona said. "Are you kidding me? No, we'll all go together. We've got a lot of destinations possible tonight. I guess I think we're hoping we all don't go back to Boston. We'll be happy to go anywhere but Boston."
Francona will only announce a starter for Thursday once the Sox know for sure they are playing on Thursday.
The Sox have been in do-or-die situations many times during Francona's time as manager. It's just that it's always been during the postseason, instead of while trying to get there.
How does this compare to the way Francona felt heading into Game 7 of the AL Championship Series' in 2007 and '08?
"I guess it's probably different, because it's a different time and everything," Francona said. "But it seems more important because it's now. Whatever you're going through at the moment seems more important. I'm not sure I know how to answer other than that. It's exciting."
Francona has been trying to get some sleep, but he admits it hasn't been easy.
"The seven pieces of fried chicken I had at 2:30 [a.m. ET] probably didn't help," Francona said. "We're all past the point of whatever. We're just kind of on autopilot, and when it's over, we'll collapse."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.