What the Yankees and Red Sox proved this week is that, barring unforeseen circumstances, neither team will be able to really distance themselves from each other. They match up very well as evidenced by the first six games of their head-to-head schedule. What that means is that, in the “Wild Card” era, this divisional race will be hotly contested. Both teams will try to avoid the one game playoff but it would be delicious theater if there could there be a repeat of a “one game playoff” ala 40 years ago to once again decide the division title. This time, the loser would likely not go home.
Think of the symmetry so far this season.
The Red Sox got off to a 17-2 start and had a 7 1/2 game lead. Despite losing last night, 5-4, to snap their eight-game winning streak, the Yankees just completed a 17-2 stretch and both teams, who split their first six games, are tied for first in the AL East and for the top record in MLB with identical 26-11 records.
As they’ve been doing frequently during their remarkable run, the Yankees came from behind again. “We gave ourselves a chance on a night it didn’t necessarily look that way,” Yankee Mgr. Aaron Boone said after the game. Trailing 4-0 in the sixth, the Yankees staged another one of their signature rallies to eventually tie the game 4-4 on a wild pitch that scored Brett Gardner from third.
Boone gambled with Dellin Betances for a second inning but Boston’s J.D. Martinez launched a “Yankee Stadium home run” (yes, the opponent can also take advantage of the short porch) just past the outstretched glove of a leaping Aaron Judge in right field. “I had a shot at getting it,” the 6’7″ outfielder said. “Once you get past that line, it’s fair game.” There was a question of whether a fan in the stands interfered but it appeared the ball was in the stands and as Judge put it, “past that line.”
The Yankees had two on and two out in the eighth but Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly, who threw the wild pitch that tied the game, struck out Neil Walker looking to end the threat.
Craig Kimbrel avenged the previous night’s loss by getting Didi Gregorius on a bouncer back to the mound to end a 1-2-3 ninth for the save. Gregorius was 0 for 5 and is now 0 for his last 24. Boone was not concerned about his shortstop who has seen his average plummet from .333 to .280. “Timing not great, he’ll pull out of this,” he said.
It’s one game of 162 but the Yankees can feel very good about themselves as they completed a crucial, 13-game stretch of the regular season with an 11-2 mark against the “cream of the crop” in the American League.
The Yankees have established an identity of a team that it is never out of a game, especially at home. Even during last night’s loss, there was a karma of “heck, they could do it again.” Boone knows what he’s got at his disposal. “Our lineup as a whole is really hard to go through time and time again,” the Manager said.
The Yankees also had an 11-game, home winning streak snapped but they’ve jumped out to 16-6 mark in the Bronx which is part of the formula for winning a division title, be a dominant home team. There are three more home games against the Oakland A’s (who stung the Yankees last season by sweeping a four game series in Oakland) before embarking on an eight game road trip through Washington DC, Kansas City and Texas.
Boone knows as well as anyone that “you can’t win ’em all” but he admitted he got a little greedy. “You walk off there disappointed,” he said.