Yankees Create Enough Distance From Red Sox Without Even Stretching Lead

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The Red Sox feel as alive as ever in the race for the American League East crown. The Yankees likely aren't losing any sleep.

At 69-42, the Yankees have the best record in baseball. With 592 runs, they've scored the most in baseball. With a plus-138 run differential, they're the best there, too.

What it boils down to is that barring a Metsian collapse, the Yankees won't have to worry too much about the Red Sox. They can't, however, say the same about the Rays, who sit just a game-and-a-half back.

Consider it this way: The Yankees have won 62.2 percent of their games. If they continue at that clip for their remaining 51 games, they'll finish 101-61. For the Rays, who have won 60.7 percent of their games, they would have to up that winning percentage to .666 in order to win 101 games. That would be hard to do, but it's very possible.

For the Red Sox, though, that's going to be hard. The Red Sox would have to win 75.5 percent of their remaining 49 games — or go 37-12 — and they'll have to do it without their Gold Glove first baseman and cleanup hitter.

While it would be hard to argue that such a run is possible, there is, of course, no guarantee that the teams continue at their current paces. Still, if the Yankees tapered off a bit and went 30-21 (.588 winning percentage), they'd still finish with 99 wins. It would still take an unbelievable Red Sox streak to get there, as they'd have to go 35-14.

That is a touch more possible, but still hard to fathom — especially considering the Red Sox have six games left with the Yankees. While the eternal optimist could point to those games as the perfect opportunity to make up major ground, the past eight years of evidence beg to differ. This is the Red Sox' record against the Yankees in each season since 2002:

2002: 9-10
2003: 9-10
2004: 11-8
2005: 9-10
2006: 8-11
2007: 8-10
2008: 9-9
2009: 9-9 (after the Red Sox won the first eight meetings)
2010: 5-7

Total: 77-84

Historical numbers don't always carry a lot of weight (such as Josh Beckett's ERA in afternoon games with partly cloudy conditions and winds between 10-15 mph), but in this case, they do. The Red Sox and Yankees exchange blows every time they take the field against each other, like two heavyweights going 15 rounds. Every single pitch is thrown as if the World Series is on the line, and every swing is treated the same. That's why it takes five hours to find a winner.

The point of all that is that earning anything better than a season-series split with the Yankees has proved to be nearly impossible this decade. With the Yankees healthier than the Red Sox and already owning a two-game advantage this season, it might not be the year that the trend changes.

The Red Sox still feel they're in the AL East race, and they should. If they didn't, then they'd be wasting everyone's time by taking the field every night without any hope.

But the Yankees are the best team in baseball, and they're not the '07 Mets. It's not often that you can send a message in a four-game split, but from Friday-Monday, the Yankees told the Red Sox that it's time to start targeting the Rays.

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