The Yankees took care of business — and then some — with their weekend sweep of the Red Sox in the Bronx. In front of an October-like crowd with the four biggest games of the season to date, the Bombers made "0-8" forgettable, as Yankee Stadium came alive for the first time since moving across the street.
With a blowout, extra-inning shutout and come-from-behind win in the four-game set, the Yankees beat the Red Sox in seemingly every way possible, sending them back to the Bean looking for answers.
Some called it the Boston Massacre 2009. Others called it the end of the 2009 Red Sox. And many began to call the Yankees the 2009 AL East division champs. The last might seem a bit premature, but looking a bit closer, it’s not that far from reality.
Entering play Tuesday, the Bombers have 50 games remaining in the 2009 season. The Red Sox have 51. With a 5 1/2 game lead in the division and six games still remaining between the rivals, it's hard to say that the AL East has already been wrapped up. However, the math says otherwise.
Since the All-Star break, the Yankees have posted an 18-6 record and in the process have swung the AL East 8 1/2 games (they trailed the Red Sox by three heading into the Midsummer Classic). With 31 wins in their last 42 games — and none bigger than the four against the Red Sox over the weekend — the Yankees have set themselves up nicely for the home stretch.
If the Yankees play .500 ball the rest of the way at 25-25, the Red Sox would have to go 31-20 (.601) to tie them atop the East. The Rays would have to go 33-17 (.660). And that is if the Yankees play just .500.
But as of right now, the Yankees have played to a .616 clip (69-43), and if they continue that the rest of the way, they would finish the season about 99-63. In that case, the Red Sox would need to go 36-15 (.701) and the Rays 38-12 (.760).
Nothing is guaranteed in baseball until the phrase "mathematically eliminated" is in the same sentence as a team's name. But mathematically speaking, the last third of the season heavily favors the Yankees heading to October as AL East champs.
There are the 1978 Red Sox and the 2007 Mets, two teams that got cold at the most inopportune of times. And there are the 1978 Yankees and 2007 Phillies that got hot at the most opportune of times in the final months of the season. A few memorable clubs have overcome wide margins with the season winding down, but there are dozens more that followed the textbook mathematics to coast to the postseason.
Last weekend’s results changed the landscape of the AL postseason picture and mainly the AL East. And when the Yankees and Red Sox meet again in 10 days, it could all change again.
The Yankees have never lost a lead of six games or more this late in a season. It doesn't look like they will this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean they won't.