The Boston Red Sox have a hammer, a nail and are standing next to the New York Yankees’ coffin.
The Red Sox are in the Bronx for four games with the Yankees starting Thursday, and the reality is that Boston could all but bury New York’s chances of winning the American League East with a good showing at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees enter the crucial series — the teams’ final head-to-head clash of the 2017 regular season — trailing the Red Sox by 5 1/2 games and are well aware of this weekend’s importance as it relates to the Major League Baseball postseason picture.
“I’m not going to downplay the magnitude of this series,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said ahead of the four-game showdown, per NJ.com. “I’m not going to. It’s a really important series for us.”
The Yankees began the week trailing the Red Sox by just 2 1/2 games in the AL East, the product of taking two of three from the Seattle Mariners last weekend as Boston stumbled through a four-game losing streak that began in Cleveland and ended with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park. But the Red Sox since have gotten back on track, winning three straight against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, while the Yankees have sputtered, dropping a trio of games to the Indians in their own yard.
In other words, New York’s resurgence in the AL East standings was short-lived, setting up a scenario where the Yankees must make up ground this weekend or else they’ll find it extremely difficult to leapfrog the Red Sox over the final month of the regular season.
“The calendar’s gonna flip to a new month here pretty soon, and we’re running out of time to catch those guys,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said, according to The New York Times. “So obviously, we’ve got a big series coming up.”
To call this series “big” might be an understatment, especially from the Yankees’ perspective. Because although there’s a chance — perhaps even a good one — they’ll still be able to lock down one of the two wild-card spots in the American League regardless of what happens this weekend against the Red Sox, the Yankees also know both the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels are nipping at their heels. The Twins pulled to within a half game of the first wild-card spot (currently occupied by the Yankees) with their fourth consecutive victory Thursday, while the Angels, winners of three straight, entered the day just two games behind the Bronx Bombers.
The Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals all sit within five games of the Yankees, who have exactly 30 games remaining on their schedule ahead of this weekend’s battle with Boston.
“As I’ve said all along, we’re in charge of our own destiny,” Girardi said, per NJ.com. “We have to win games. It’s impossible not to look at the scoreboard. It’s right there. I’d have to have my head in the sand to not see the scores of games. But we have to worry about ourselves. We can’t be so concerned with other people and what they’re doing. We have to play well.”
The Red Sox and Yankees have played each other tight this season, with New York winning eight of the teams’ first 15 head-to-head contests. The Yankees really need to elevate their game in the coming days, though, or else they’ll put themselves in a terrible situation as it relates to winning their first division crown since 2012 and a potentially vulnerable spot in trying to lock down a playoff spot in general.
Thumbnail photo via Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports Images