We’ll start with an admission: we’ve had Red Sox/Yankees fatigue for a few weeks now. The teams have simply played too many early season games for our liking, and the wonderfully emotional tensions of Sox-Yanks tete-a-tetes has been lessened, not just by the disparity in the standings, but also by the frequency with which they’ve seen each other this year. Barely a third through the season, the rivals will have completed nearly 67% of their head-to-head contests. That’s not ideal, dramatically speaking.
Tonight the festivities resume, this time at Fenway, and we have no choice but to embrace them. Though it’s only been three weeks, much has happened in the time since Yankees fans (and supposedly the team) were given a shot of oxygen when Roger Clemens announced his signing during a seventh inning stretch at the Stadium. On that day, the Yankees were 8 games behind. They had the emotional momentum, if not the on-field momentum. The stars were aligning. And then reality hit. There was no momentum for the Yankees. They slumped. The Red Sox, playing good baseball, continued to play good baseball. The Sox extended their lead — that Sunday following the miracle comeback against the Orioles the Sox were up on New York by 8 games, but that lead is now 13.5 (though the division lead is a mere 10, over the Orioles). The Sox have been hot, winning series’ against the Tigers and the Indians, the class of the Central. The Yankees have struggled, swept by the Angels and hurt by the Blue Jays. Josh Beckett came back strong. Daisuke Matsuzaka vomited, both on and off the mound. Kevin Youkilis started a streak. Alex Rodriguez went to see performance art, and then made friends with the artist. He also exercised his vocal chords, famously. Tonight our two teams reacquaint themselves with each other, and the needs of each team vary.
The Yankees face the start of what is basically a must-sweep series. The "we just need to start winning series" cry is certainly true (God knows Yankee fans want their team to "just start winning series"), but a 2-1 split of this troika doesn’t really get the Yankees anywhere, only a sweep does that. Following this series they will have a mere 7 games left against the Sox, not enough to make up the differential in head-to-head action. Conversely, the Sox can do their thing, take a game, and finish the weekend a gaudy 12.5 games up on their rivals. We don’t hope for such complacency (and don’t have such low expectations), and we don’t expect the teams look at this series the same way, so intensity will be the order of business, in both dugouts. More amazingly, the Sox can be swept (perish the thought!) and still have a 7 game lead on their next-closest chaser, and only if the Orioles sweep their series. This is a hell of a spot to be in in June. We couldn’t be much happier. Of course, we can always be somewhat happier, and that would start with a win this evening.
Use this as tonight’s game thread. And no yelling during infield flies, please.