By virtue of a day off and a late rally by the Minnesota Twins yesterday down in Tampa Bay the Yankees, find themselves atop of the AL Eastern Division today by a slim ½ game over the Tampa Bay Rays. They also lead the Boston Red Sox by 6 games going into this weekend’s wrap around series against the boys from Beantown.
The Yankees need to make the most of their opportunity in the next four days and make a statement, because, quite frankly, other than their head-to-head record against the Baltimore Orioles the Bombers fortunes against their AL East opponents aren’t all that great.
So far this season the Yankees are 5-6 against the Rays, 5-3 against the Red Sox and 4-5 against the fourth place Blue Jays. That gives them a 14-14 record facing teams not named the Orioles. That, too, may change, because the New Yorkers have six more games down the road against the O’s and they’re going to face them with a new manager in the dugout by the name of Buck Showalter.
Just ask the Angels how they fared against the Orioles these past 3 days. Under Showalter the Orioles are 3-0 and all three victories came at the expense of the Halos who were swept out of Baltimore, basically ending any realistic run they may have had to the playoffs. They trail the Texas Rangers by 10 games.
The Yankees can do the same to the Red Sox by winning this weekend’s series. The Sox just found out they lost another key piece to their team as Kevin Youkilis was placed on the disabled list with a torn right thumb requiring season ending surgery. They are still without Dustin Pedroia, Mike Cameron and their emotional leader Jason Varitek. That said, the Red Sox have played all year without various players in their clubhouse. At some point in time they have had to do without the services of Jacoby Ellsbury, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to name a few. Despite all the setbacks the Sox refuse to go away.
If the Yankees aren’t careful they just may give Boston the idea they can supplant the Bombers for one of the coveted playoff slots. They are like a very dangerous, wounded animal. You can’t let them get too close.
Both the Red Sox and Yankees have scheduling problems as well. Starting tonight they face each other for four games. Then Boston goes on the road to play three in Toronto, followed by three in Texas before returning home to face the Angels, Blue Jays and the Seattle Mariners. Then they hit the road again to face Tampa Bay (3 games) and Baltimore (3 games). September-October is going to be tough as they face Chicago White Sox (3-home, 4-away), Tampa Bay (3-home), Oakland Athletics (3-away), Seattle (3-away), Toronto (3-home) and the Yankees (3-away, 3-home). Those six teams have a combined winning average .535.
The Yankees remaining August games pits them against the Red Sox (4-home), Rangers (2-away, Kansas City Royals (4-away), Detroit Tigers (4-home), Mariners (3-home), Blue Jays (3-home), White Sox (3-away) and Oakland (4-home).
Their September-October schedule gets brutal after that. The Yankees face the Blue Jays (3-home, 3-away), Orioles (3-home, 3-away), Rangers (3-away), Rays (3-away, 4-home) and Red Sox (3-home, 3-away).
Throw out Baltimore and the Yankees are playing the teams with the second, third, fourth, and sixth best records in the American League in the last month of the season. Those four teams are a combined 506-185 for a .732 winning percentage. With the Orioles it’s still .523 YIKES!
The team with, arguably, the easiest road to the playoffs is the Rays. For the remainder of August they face Blue Jays (3-away, 3-home), Tigers (3-away), Orioles (3-home), Rangers (3-home), Athletics (4-away), Angels (3-away) and Red Sox (3-home). In September-October the Rays get it on with the Orioles (3-away, 3-home), Red Sox (3-away), Blue Jays (3-away), Angels (3-home), Yankees (3-home, 4-away), Mariners (3-home) and the Royals (4-away). Those teams combine for a .474 winning percentage.
The Rays are going to be watching this weekend’s series between Boston and New York with keen interest. They have to take on the Blue Jays on the road, and they have to watch out and not stub their toes in Toronto. Even if the Rays sweep the Jays the Yankees can eliminate one of their competitors by taking at least 3-of-4 from Boston. Lose the series or split it and the Red Sox are still in business with a number of their walking wounded returning for the final weeks of the season.
Make no mistake this weekend’s series is important to both teams. However, it’s probably more important to Boston, because their season is going to live or die by how they do this weekend in the Bronx.
Do the Yankees have another Boston Massacre in their bag of tricks? They better hope.