AL East on the Line in the Bronx This Weekend

The Red Sox are in the Bronx this weekend with a chance to put the Yankees to bed in the AL East. It didn’t seem like that would be possible just 72 hours ago. As the Red Sox were getting swept by the Orioles last weekend, the Yankees were taking two out of three against the Mariners. On Monday morning, the Yankees were just 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox.

Since Monday morning, though, the Red Sox got three solid starts from its pitching staff and won all three games against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Meanwhile in New York, the Yankees had their momentum come to a screeching halt as they got swept by the Cleveland Indians. Losing both ends of a doubleheader yesterday as the Red Sox won again in Toronto meant that the Yankees fell 1 1/2 games further behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The Red Sox now lead the Yankees by 5 1/2 games, their biggest lead in the division this season.

Despite the blip against the Orioles, August has been the best month of the season for the Red Sox. The Sox are 18-8 this month and 19-8 since stumbling out of the gate 7-10 after the All-Star break. That works out to 26-18 overall since the break, which is a higher winning percentage (.591) than the team posted in the first half (.562).

The Yankees have been trending in the opposite direction, as their best month was April. After going 30-20 in April and May, they got out to a 4 game lead in the division by June 12. But since the beginning of June the team is 40-42.

The Yankees really need to take at least three games this weekend to have any shot in the division race. [They could also use three wins to get some breathing room in the Wild Card race. They are just one game up on the second Wild Card team, the Twins, and just two games up on the third-place team in the Wild Card race, the Angels.] A split of this series would mean the Yankees would have only 26 games to make up 5 1/2 games on the Red Sox.

Clearly, it wouldn’t be impossible for the Yankees to catch the Red Sox if they were 5 1/2 games back on Labor Day but they would need to have their best month of the season. There have been no signs that the Yankees are ready to rip off six in a row, or 12 out of 15. And the Red Sox can only be caught if they stumble.

The Red Sox have a favorable schedule after Labor Day. Of their final 25 games, 16 will be at Fenway Park. The farthest the Red Sox will travel in September is to Cincinnati, and the Red Sox are 13-4 in interleague play this season. They’ll close out the season at home with four games against the Houston Astros who might have the top spot in their division, and the league, wrapped at that point.

The panic button is out, but it’s now in the hands of Yankees fans.

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