After a weekend of blowouts in New York, nothing is settled in AL East, except that a frantic finish is almost assured
For those seeking clarity about what’s morphing into one of Major League Baseball’s most captivating pennant races in decades, we present three final scores over three days, another kind of Bronx tale.
Yankees, 8. Red Sox 1. Red Sox 11, Yankees 0. Yankees 11, Red Sox 1.
If you dare, go ahead, conclude that this best two-of-three series win for the Yankees finally signifies a divide between two teams that have barked at each other since the beginning of the season.
But we caution against such over-reaction because as we enter the new week the Yankees (54-27) hold just the slightest lead over the Red Sox (56-29) in the American League East. And we have a half-season to play.
Still, what fun we’ve already had watching these notable adversaries punch and counterpunch.
One could have argued things seemed settled when the Red Sox started the season 17-3, tying the 1946 team for the fastest 20-game start in franchise history. The Red Sox led the Yankees by 7½ games at that point. Alex Cora, Manager of the Year!
But by May 9, the Yankees had run off 16 of 17, their best 17-game sprint since June 1953 when they won 21 of 22 with Mantle, Berra, Ford and Rizzuto. Aaron Boone, Manager of the Year!
Truth is, it’s quite possible this skirmish won’t be decided until September when the teams play six times, first at Yankee Stadium (18-20) before ending the year with three at Fenway. The winner takes the division, the loser plays in the Wild Card game.
And based on the far-less-heralded race going on in the AL West, the other Wild Card team is likely to have a record equal to, or perhaps better than, the second-place team in the East. Winning the division hasn’t been this critical since the Wild Card era began in 1995.
What can be concluded is that the Yankees and Red Sox seem to be mirror images of each other, blessed with great hitters, led by rookie managers, fraught by questionable starting pitching and guided by two of most astute general managers of their generation.
Pick a winner? No chance.
The Red Sox have two legitimate MVP candidates in Mookie Betts (20 homers, 41 RBIs, MLB-leading .339 batting average) and J.D. Martinez (MLB-leading 25 homers, MLB-leading 67 RBIs, .324 batting average).
Martinez is the first Red Sox with 25 homers before July 1, just the seventh Red Sox with 25 or more in the first 81 games of a season. Why is that worth noting? Remember, Betts led the Red Sox with 24 homers in 2017.
Next for Martinez is David Ortiz’ record of 31 homers before the All-Star break (2006). Ortiz (54) in 2006 and Jimmie Foxx (50) in 1938 are the only two Red Sox to ever hit 50 homers in a season.
The Yankees have the prohibitive favorite for Rookie of the Year, second baseman Gleyber Torres, who already has 15 homers and 42 RBIs in his first 222 at-bats.
Torres is one of seven Yankees with at least 12 homers, led by the likes of Aaron Judge (22 homers, 55 RBIs) and Giancarlo Stanton (19 homers. 46 RBIs). They hit six more on Sunday to give them a MLB-leading 137. It’s the most by any Yankee team before the All-Star Game.
Each team has a premier starting pitcher. The Red Sox have leaned on Chris Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA). He allowed one hit over seven scoreless innings, striking out 11 in Saturday’s win.
The Yankees have reveled in Luis Severino (13-2, 1.98 ERA, 138 strikeouts, 0.95 WIP). He allowed two hits and no runs in 6 2/3 innings Sunday to become the first pitcher in the majors to win 13. And he lowered his AL-best ERA to 1.98.
But they also have established pitchers in the midst of horrible seasons and will spend the month looking to fortify their staffs.
Boston’s David Price (4.28 ERA, 15 homers, $217 million) and New York’s Sonny Gray (5.44 ERA, 8.25 at home, 7.59 against .500 or better teams) have been terrible disappointments.
Both Gray and Price went to Vanderbilt. Hmmm.
Anyhow, Gray allowed six runs on seven hits in 2 1/3 innings during Saturday’s loss. Price allowed eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings Sunday, including the first five (a career-high) of the six New York homers.
It was only the fifth time in a century the Yankees had hit six homers against the Red Sox in a game. And that’s a long time.
So, it’s likely both teams will be kicking the tires on the same starters as the Trade Deadline nears.
Start with the lousy Mets, so in need of young talent. They might be willing to trade Jacob deGrom, with MLB’s lowest ERA, or Noah Syndergaard, who has pitched in only 18 games in the last two seasons, or the suddenly rejuvenated Zach Wheeler or Steven Matz. Or all of them.
Maybe they can get Cole Hamels from Texas, Michael Fulmer from Detroit, J.A. Happ from Toronto or Matt Harvey from Cincinnati.
But whatever they do, one thing is for certain. It doesn’t get any better than the Yankees and Red Sox in a pennant race.