When fans of the Red Sox and Yankees first spotted this series on the schedule this past winter, they probably saw it right away as a pivotal series in the American League pennant race.
The two top teams in the league on paper, battling right down to the wire for the AL East title and a guaranteed ticket to October.
It didn’t quite pan out that way.
The Sox and Yanks are still the two best teams in the AL, and probably in all of baseball, just as expected, but the series has little chance of making a difference in the postseason picture. At this point, there’s probably a better chance of Dustin Pedroia being struck by lightning — twice — than the Red Sox catching the Yankees for the East title, but that’s okay. The Sox are days away from clinching the wild card, which would likely line them up for a first-round series with an Angels team that they’ve always dominated in October.
This doesn’t usually happen, but the Sox and Yanks are playing a series in September that has little bearing on October.
That doesn’t mean there will be any less drama in the Bronx on Friday night.
These things have a way of escalating, regardless of the circumstances. No matter who’s where in the standings, Sox-Yanks is a spectacle to behold.
The Red Sox ride into Yankee Stadium this weekend with a magic number of three in their quest to lock up a spot in the AL playoffs. While the Rangers take on a fellow also-ran in the Rays, the right combination of wins and losses this weekend could have the Sox locked into October by Saturday afternoon.
And if the Sox clinch a playoff berth in Yankee Stadium, you had better believe the Yanks won’t take this lying down.
They’re going to want revenge. This will fan the flames on an already-intense rivalry — and if the two teams meet again in October, this will be epic. Expect 2004 all over again.
Hard to believe, but the Red Sox and Yankees haven’t met in an October series in five years. The last time the two squared off in the playoffs, Boston came back from down 3-0 and won the 2004 AL pennant, before sweeping past St. Louis and capturing October glory.
The Yankees have waited a long time for a rematch. This weekend is a preview of what that rematch could bring.
On Friday, the Red Sox get a look at Joba Chamberlain. Joba is young, raw and making his 30th start this season — does he have what it takes to keep the Yanks afloat over the long haul?
On Saturday, the Yankees will see Daisuke Matsuzaka for the first time in almost a year. His first two starts back from injury were brilliant — but can he handle the Yankees in a pressure-packed September series?
On Sunday, it’ll be Paul Byrd against Andy Pettitte. One guy is just battling to have a shot at a postseason roster spot — the other is trying to prove he’s over his recent shoulder injuries and ready to make an impact.
Everyone’s got something to prove this weekend. A lot of questions will be answered over the next three days, and those answers will shed a lot of light on who’s got the upper hand as October approaches.
Is there anything to play for this weekend? Ostensibly, no. But there’s a lot more to this series than just winning and losing.
The playoff atmosphere is here early. Enjoy it, everyone.