The Yankees had a prime opportunity this weekend to put away the Red Sox. Despite winning the series finale, they failed to do so.
Didi Gregorius on the upcoming Red Sox series:— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) July 25, 2019
“Every time we get a chance to play them and you get a chance to bury them, that’s all you want to do: keep expanding the lead.”
As of today, the Yankees hold an 8.5 game lead of the Rays in the AL East and a nine-game advantage over Boston. With that much of a cushion, neither team has moved from the Yankees’ rearview mirror into their blind spot, though they’ve each gained ground in recent days.
The Yankees have eight games remaining against the Red Sox, so their nine-game lead (10 in the loss column) means that Boston doesn’t even control its own destiny right now. However, despite being in third place, the Red Sox are the main threat to New York as Tampa Bay has just two games left against the Bombers.
And this weekend was a wake-up call as to how good the Red Sox truly are. They didn’t magically fix their own rotation woes, but the Sox gleefully exposed the Yankees’ issues with their red-hot lineup, the same one they rode to October glory last fall. Their top five of Betts, Devers, Bogaerts, Martinez and Benintendi has no easy outs in it right now, which compounded the Yankees’ general pitching struggles.
Still, it’s a different formula for Boston’s success right now. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have gone from MVP-level hitting to merely All-Star caliber, while Devers and Bogaerts have taken the next step to stardom. Devers’ ability at the plate is going to make him a thorn in the Yankees’ side for the next decade. Get ready to be mad about him for years.
Unlike the Yankees, who saw CC Sabathia and DJ LeMahieu suffer injuries this weekend, the Red Sox are approaching full health with Nathan Eovaldi and Mitch Moreland back in the mix. They’re still grasping for pitching depth as Rick Porcello struggles and Andrew Cashner acts as a stopgap in the rotation. Still, a very similar rotation got the job done a year ago, even if Chris Sale isn’t the same pitcher right now.
With holes in their bullpen and a scuffling rotation, one may think the Sox would a mandate to get pitching help, though further reinforcements may not be forthcoming given the state of the trade market. Boston is further hampered by their budgetary constraints as they avoid topping the upper-most luxury tax tier. That may count them out of the bullpen upgrade they sorely need.
Still, the Red Sox exposed the Yankees as flawed with their offensive fireworks. That should give Brian Cashman a mandate of his own to add pitching in time for both their final matchups with Boston and the march to October. Chances are, the Bombers could hold off both the Red Sox and Rays without further pitching help, but the Astros and Twins may be another story.
And the Astros gained ground on the Yankees’ this weekend. No, they didn’t overtake the Bombers and not every series is a referendum on potential ACLS matchup. Still, the Yankees can’t lose track of that ultimate goal and the teams that pose the largest threat.
The Yankees get another crack at laying down the hammer and putting away the Red Sox in just a few days. Even a split of the four-game series would go a long way to holding Boston at a comfortable length and preventing a 2012-esque collapse for New York.
Even if they do achieve a split or better, Boston still looms as a potential ALDS opponent. They’re just a game back of the second wild card and have the horses to pass Oakland and Tampa Bay. In a funhouse mirror of 2018, the Red Sox could be the wild card team that matches up well in an ALDS with the proprietor of homefield advantage.
If early July had given the Yankees a sense of how good they could be, the Red Sox and, to a lesser extent, the Twins displayed what how nadir and potential October exit might look. Now, they have to correct their issues from inside and outside so they can put away the division and other concerns once and for all.