As of today, September 15, 2011, the New York Yankees sit atop the American League East at 90-58 with a substantial four game lead on the beginning-of-the-season favorites, the Boston Red Sox.
Everything is in New York’s favor. They have the best record in the American League (and it’s not even that close), Their roster is getting healthy, CC Sabathia is pitching like an ace, Jesus Montero, the offensively-talented prodigy, has been everything and more for the Yankees since his call-up (and could make his way onto the playoff roster), the Bridge-to-Mariano is pitching up to expectations, and Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson continue to build upon their potential MVP seasons. They are, without a doubt, the best team in the American League right now, with their chances of making the playoffs at 99.8% and chances of winning the East at 89.0%
Boston, who sat atop the division not too long ago, has done anything but prove that they have a fighting chance to retake the crown. If losing their grip on the AL East wasn’t bad enough, they’re also starting to slide in their lead for the AL Wild Card, and lead the Tampa Bay Rays by just four games
In the past week, since their series against the Yankees (Aug 30 – Sep 1, in which they lost 2/3 games to New York) the Red Sox have produced the following
Lost 2/3 vs. Texas Rangers (Sep 2 – Sep 4)
Lost 3/4 vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Sep 5 – Sep 8 )
Lost 3/3 vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Sep 9 – Sep 11)
Lost 1/2 vs. Blue Jays (Sep 13 – Sep 14)
That’s right, the Boston Red Sox areÂ losersÂ of six of their last seven.
Meanwhile, the surging Rays, who swept Boston, have beenÂ winnersÂ of five of their last seven.
Last week, Boston led Tampa byÂ nine gamesÂ in the Wild Card.
Ridiculousness? I think so.
Is it possible that the Red Sox, the same team that was projected to win almost 100 games after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and meet the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, could collapse, a la 2007 New York Mets, and possibly miss the playoffs?
Ya huh, it is. Likely, though? Not a chance. However, as the Mets proved in 2007, losing a seven-game lead in the final 17 games, anything is possible.
The Red Sox play the pitiful Baltimore Orioles seven more times this season while also playing one more (what could be) crucial series against the Rays, split by a series in New York to face the Yankees, not to mention they just split a two-game series against the Blue Jays. If anything, besides the series against New York and Tampa, the schedule is in their favor and the Wild Card is Boston’s to lose.
It’s Tampa, actually, that has the tougher schedule. Currently in a series with the Orioles (they lost 2/3), they then travel to Fenway Park to play four with the Red Sox and then go to Yankee Stadium to play four with the Yankees. A three-game series with the Blue Jays unfolds after that series before they host the Yankees back home for a three-game series that could ultimately decide their playoff fate.
Boston has been decimated by injuries of late. Everything from Josh Beckett’s ankle sprain to Kevin Youkilis’ sports hernia, to even Daniel Bard’s recent inconsistency, has hurt the product on the field that was supposed to be destined for greatness in October, but now serves as a question mark. Tampa on the other hand has been playing great of late, going 7-3 in their last 10 games, opposed to Boston’s 2-8. They are definitely pushing for it all, and with James Shields and David Price at the helm of a dangerous pitching rotation, in addition to the spark that rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings has provided thus far, there is no reason that they could not overtake Boston and make the playoffs.
Could you imagine?
It’s certainly time to panic up in Beantown. The Red Sox are slipping fast and their players are dropping like flies. They just called up some reinforcements in Lars Anderson, Jose Iglesias and more, but the Rays also called up their prized left-hander (who was ranked as the best pitcher in the minor leagues) Matt Moore, who could have a “2008 David Price” kind of effect out of the bullpen for the Rays. Scary thought.
The Red Sox schedule is definitely in their favor, while Tampa’s is a tad more difficult – but they’re surging, and anything can happen when a team catches lightning in a bottle in September. Again, it’s unlikely Boston misses the playoffs, but it’s possible.
Plus, who doesn’t love a tight race coming down to the line? Boston’s got 14 games left, Tampa 13 games left, and it’s going to be very, very interesting. If you thought that last year was fun towards the end, it’s going to be a lot more fun in baseball’s best division this year.
Oh lord, do I love baseball.