On Saturday April 16th, the Yankees were in 1st place in the American League East over Toronto by 1 1/2 games. The Boston Red Sox, who had only won three games in their first 13 were in last, and five games out. Although the season was early, I had a good feeling about things. The baseball historians were speaking, about how a team had never started with the record of Boston’s and gone on to make the playoffs. I figured Toronto and Baltimore would be who we thought they were, and Tampa might challenge but would probably fall back by the end of the year after an off-season of rebuilding. And then the Red Sox got hot. By July 27th, the Yankees were now three games back of Boston, and had only managed two wins against the Red Sox. It appeared that New York was going to have to settle for the wild card spot, especially considering how shaky their starting pitching was, and the fact they just couldn’t beat Boston. But then things started to turn around. Since that day, the Yankees have gone 34-19, while Boston has struggled, going 24-29. New York entered yesterday with a magic number of three – a number that was achievable that day as they were playing a double-header. If they swept Tampa, and Baltimore finished off their own sweep of Boston, the Yankees would be American League East champs, and own a seven game lead over the Red Sox. And somehow they pulled it off. Two guys that had been there many times before finished off both game for the Bombers. Mariano Rivera notched career save 603 in the day game, while Jorge Posada capped off a tumultuous season by knocking in the go ahead runs in the bottom of the 8th to win the night-cap.
It is unbelievable to me, after the way the Yankees have played the Sox, and the inconsistent starting pitching, that the Yankees have won the division, and are about to lock up home field advantage. The collapse of the Red Sox is epic, and just as surprising as their horrible start. They still lead the wild card race by 2 1/2, but if they continue to play the way they have been , they will prove history right, and fail to make the playoffs. The Yankees have to win three of their next six games to have home field advantage. If they sweep Boston they will have nothing to play for against Tampa in their final series, and may rest all of their starters, which doesn’t bode well for Boston. They need New York to beat Tampa to give them their wild card chance. Boston fans may just find themselves cheering for the “Evil Empire” as the season winds down. I may find myself cheering for Tampa.