The rivals square off again this afternoon, but the storyline for this series, barring extraordinary events, has already been established. The Yanks went into play last night having demolished the Sox pitching staff in three consecutive, utterly disheartening (and extremely long) games. With Schilling on the mound, the Sox at least had a good shot to put a break on the Yankees and salvage the series. Instead, they got something arguably worse, or at least more depressing, than another blowout: a blown save from Papelbon, and a Yankee win in extras. Blame “Slow Hook” Francona, blame Theo, blame the fates—it matters not. Any win by the Sox today will be Pyrrhic, at least in terms of this set; the Yanks have hardly clinched the division, despite the lead. There’s too much baseball left to play for that, and the truth is, as much as the Yankees have exposed the weaknesses of the Sox over the past four games, their own deficiencies have also been quite evident. Yes, they have jacked 47 runs off Boston. But the Sox have put up 26 of their own, and the Bomber starting pitching has looked anything but dominant. The Yankees may be the better club right now, they may be the best club in baseball right now, but this is a team with its own shortcomings. The fate of teams in the playoffs that rely so heavily on their offenses should give Yankee fans some pause.
But what an offense that is. The Sox pitching may be weak, but the difficulty of pitching to the pitch-eating Yankee lineup cannot be overestimated. From top to bottom, Damon to Melky, the Yankees work over an opposing pitcher like no other team I’ve ever seen. Even Cano is becoming more selective, and the vicious top-of-the-order gauntlet of Damon-Jeter-Abreu-Giambi is unparalleled. And then you have Alex and Jorge making a Cano sandwich. Has a lineup ever demanded more work?
We close with a note: Derek Jeter has twice come through with the crucial hit in 2-out situations in this series. Meanwhile, the headline on the Boston game program is “MVPapi.” Not so fast.