Just when we thought the Boston Red Sox were cruising towards the AL East crown, the race suddenly became interesting again. Just one weekend has turned things around so that the New York Yankees are right on Boston’s tail and the race for first place in the division is far from over.
But is this turnaround for real? Can the Yankees maintain momentum? Is Boston’s cold streak just bad luck or is the team finally hitting the proverbial wall after a ridiculously strong second half?
Either way, with just over a month of action remaining, the AL East race is far from over and could well come down to the wire.
It is important to note that an already banged up Boston roster was dealt another injury five days ago when center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. went on the disabled list with a sprained thumb. The team has gone 1-4 in his absence, but not because of him.
Chris Sale has lost his last two starts, one of which was against the hated Yankees and another in which he surrendered seven runs (six earned) in just three innings of work against the Cleveland Indians. Boston managed a series split against the AL Central leaders but then took a tremendous step back.
The Red Sox suffered a devastating sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend and were outscored 25-4 over three games. That’s unacceptable for a team looking to make the AL East crown its own, especially since this cold streak came after taking two of three from the Yankees just over a week ago.
Things aren’t getting any easier with three road games coming up against Toronto, who took two of three from New York recently, followed by a four-game set at Yankee Stadium that is now vitally important.
New York surges
New York’s momentum has moved in a direction opposite of Boston’s since both teams last met. The Yankees took two of three from the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park followed by doing the same against the Seattle Mariners at home.
The latter series victory was made all the better by the much-anticipated return of first baseman Greg Bird, who had been out since May recovering from an ankle injury that ultimately required surgery. Bird has gone 2-for-3 with two RBI and a pair of walks since his return and though there is still a long road ahead of him, he looks much more confident and comfortable at the plate than he did earlier this season.
The Yankees’ wins combined with Boston’s losses have the Bronx Bombers a mere 2.5 games out of first place, but the team should not start the party just yet. Not only is there a lot of baseball left to be played, but the upcoming week could be challenging.
Before Boston arrives on Thursday for a four-game set, New York must play three games against a Cleveland Indians team that has won four straight and is 7-3 in its last 10 games. Both teams split a four-game set at Progressive Field earlier this month, but the Yankees looked fairly weak overall in that series and need to be better this time around.
But the Yankees could face an uphill battle this week for another reason. Thanks to the multiple bench-clearing incidents in Detroit last Thursday, New York could be without catchers Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine. Sanchez was initially suspended for four games and Romine for two though both have appealed. Regardless of the outcome, at least one of the pair will be likely off the field at some point this week.
This hurts the Yankees not only because it could force them to call up an emergency catcher from the minors prior to the September roster expansions, but because Sanchez has been on an absolute tear as of late. The man they call “The Kraken” has 27 home runs and 75 RBI on the year and is batting .308 with 11 home runs and a 1.078 OPS in August. He has picked up the slack dropped by Aaron Judge and losing him for any stretch of time could be detrimental to the Bronx Bombers.
If there’s one lesson the weekend taught baseball fans, it’s that the AL East is now Boston’s to lose rather than win. All too often have the Red Sox stumbled in September and cost themselves the AL East while the Yankees have surged and clinched the crown in the season’s latter days.
Long story short, with both teams set to meet this week, this race is far from over and until conversations about a magic number happen, it will continue.
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?