Maybe yesterday’s matchup against the Red Sox really wasn’t a big game. After all, the Yankees entered the game with the best record in baseball, not to mention six fewer losses than Boston. When looked at rationally, dropping a second consecutive game to the Red Sox would not have been the end of the world. Then again, all logic and reason seem to go out the window when these two teams meet.
The Red Sox limped into the weekend series, both figuratively and literally. Just when it seemed like they were starting to pick up steam by winning five of six from the Angels and Tigers, the Red Sox split a home series against the last place Indians and in the process lost Kevin Youkilis for the season. Coming on the heels of such disappointing news, you’d have thought Boston would be looking at the upcoming four game series as a wake, but instead, the quotes coming out of their clubhouse on Thursday night suggested quiet confidence.
From the Yankees perspective, four games against the wounded Red Sox presented an opportunity to drive the last nail in the coffin, but also carried a risk of allowing an always dangerous opponent the chance to rise from the dead. With three of the games featuring a pitching matchup that favored Boston, it’s easy to see why there might be at least a little uneasiness and apprehension. However, the Yankees had an ace in the hole…C.C. Sabathia.
Since joining the Yankees, Sabathia has compiled a 4-1 record with a 3.05 ERA in eight starts against the Red Sox. What’s more, above and beyond his performance in the rivalry, Sabathia has established himself as the undisputed rock of the Yankees’ rotation. When all else has failed, Sabathia has seemed to always come up with a big outing. Yesterday was no different.
After the Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead, more than a few fans on both sides of the rivalry probably starting thinking ahead to the next matchups. All of a sudden, the possibility of a sweep started to gain credibility. If Boston could overcome the Yankees’ big lefty, then beating the erratic AJ Burnett and fill-in starter Dustin Moseley would be all that kept the team from slashing the Yankees’ lead to two games. Unfortunately for Red Sox Nation, those dreams were dashed when Sabathia put the Boston lineup on lockdown and gave his offense the chance to build an insurmountable lead. Not only did Sabathia hold Boston to the two runs they scored in the second inning, but he handed the ball directly to Mariano Rivera, thereby helping to preserve a bullpen that will likely be called into action over the next two games.
Just because the Red Sox lost yesterday doesn’t make this a lost weekend for the team. They still have Josh Beckett and Jonathan Lester lined up to go in the next two games, and therefore have to like their chances of taking both. After losing yesterday’s game, however, Boston now has to win the final two games of the series just to make up some ground. Otherwise, it’s just four more games off the schedule.
Winning three of four games at Yankee Stadium would still be an impressive accomplishment for the Red Sox, and would likely give the team a needed boost as they continue a brutal road trip that will take them next to Toronto and Texas. A sweep, however, would have been like a rocket launcher. The history of the rivalry is replete with season changing series that reversed fortunes and doomed fates. Had Boston been able to beat Sabathia, they might have been in line for such a turning point. Instead, they must now make sure these final two games do not wind up becoming the beginning of their end.
Momentous Four Game Series in the Rivalry’s History
August 6-9, 2009
|8/6/2009||Yankees||13||Red Sox||6||J. Chamberlain||J. Smoltz|
|8/7/2009||Yankees||2||Red Sox||0||P. Coke||J. Tazawa|
|8/8/2009||Yankees||5||Red Sox||0||C. Sabathia||C. Buchholz|
|8/9/2009||Yankees||5||Red Sox||2||P. Coke||D. Bard||M. Rivera|
Background: The Yankees entered the series with a 2.5 game lead over Boston, but had dropped the first eight head-to-head matchups. The question entering the four game show down was whether the Yankees could beat the Red Sox, but after the four game sweep, the only remaining doubt was whether the Red Sox would be able to hold off the Rays and Rangers for the wild card. After the series, Boston would rebound to go 33-19 over the remainder of the season, but wound up losing nine of their final 10 against the Bronx Bombers.
August 18-21, 2006
|8/18/2006 (1)||Yankees||12||Red Sox||4||C. Wang||J. Johnson|
|8/18/2006 (2)||Yankees||14||Red Sox||11||M. Myers||M. Timlin|
|8/19/2006||Yankees||13||Red Sox||5||R. Johnson||J. Beckett|
|8/20/2006||Yankees||8||Red Sox||5||M. Rivera||C. Hansen|
|8/21/2006||Yankees||2||Red Sox||1||C. Lidle||D. Wells||Farnsworth|
Background: An early season rainout set up a rare five game series in the middle of August. Once again, the Yankees held the upper hand with a 2.5 game lead, but with the lengthy series being held in Fenway Park, the stage seemed to be set for the Red Sox to make a move. Instead, the Yankees swept the series opening double header, which included a seven run seventh inning in game two that turned a 10-7 deficit into a 14-11 victory. The Yankees continued to pour on the runs in the next two games before polishing off the sweep with a 2-1 triumph. In total, the Yankees outscored the Red Sox 49 to 26, and in the process sent Boston into a 17-21 spiral that knocked them out of the playoff picture.
September 7-10, 1978
|9/7/1978||Yankees||15||Red Sox||3||K. Clay||M. Torrez|
|9/8/1978||Yankees||13||Red Sox||2||J. Beattie||J. Wright|
|9/9/1978||Yankees||7||Red Sox||0||R. Guidry||D. Eckersley|
|9/10/1978||Yankees||7||Red Sox||4||E. Figueroa||B. Sprowl||R. Gossage|
Background: Known as the “Boston Massacre”, the Yankees outscored the Red Sox 42 to 9 to turn a four game deficit into a tie atop the AL East. The overwhelming series sweep was the culmination of a season-long comeback that saw the Yankees overcome a 14 game deficit as late as July 19. After the Boston Massacre, the Yankees quickly built up a four game lead, thanks to two more victories over the Red Sox the following week at Yankee Stadium, but eventually found themselves tied again with Boston at the end of the season. The ensuing one-game playoff would further add to the rivalry’s legacy and give Yankees’ short stop Bucky Dent a new middle name throughout New England.