Tomase: Can the Red Sox and Yankees just fast-forward to October already?

John Tomase
August 02, 2018 - 11:44 am

USA Today Sports

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Five games in October. They're all that matter.

The juice that coursed through Red Sox-Yankees just over a month ago could've powered the floors of Trump Tower devoted to election meddling I mean Russian adoptions.

The two teams finished that series -- two blowouts for New York, one for Boston -- effectively tied for first place. Since then, they've headed in opposite directions. Actually, that's not quite true. One stock has steadily risen like Prudential, whereas the other has exploded like Apple.

The Yankees have gone 14-11 for a .560 winning percentage that translates to 90 wins. The Red Sox? Bet you didn't know they're 19-5 since that series, a .792 winning percentage that would equal 128 wins over a full season. They now lead the division by 5 1/2 games.

That's why Yankees GM Brian Cashman devoted part of his post-trade deadline press conference to bemoaning the steamroller nature of New York's rival.

"You wonder what their record would be if they weren't playing us because I know when we go head to head we've done some damage against them," Cashman said. "I tip my cap to them, a lot of respect that way, but we're doing everything we can to reinforce what we've got and take our shot."

When the clubs kick off a four-game series at Fenway Park on Thursday night, the stakes will feel quite a bit different. That electricity of last month has been replaced by the low-grade shock collar that keeps Fido from running into traffic.

The Yankees are trying to survive injuries to slugging outfielder Aaron Judge (broken wrist) and catcher Gary Sanchez (groin), who could each miss the rest of the month. Their starting pitching remains a work in progress, with Luis Severino and CC Sabathia the two mainstays, oft-injured Masahiro Tanaka making a leap forward in July (18 scoreless innings and counting), Sonny Gray just a terrible fit for Yankee Stadium, and new acquisition J.A. Happ already on the disabled list with something the kid brings home from daycare (hand, foot, and mouth disease). It says something that acquiring swingman Lance Lynn and his 5.10 ERA from Minnesota was considered an upgrade.

Barring a New York sweep, the Red Sox can effectively ice the division this weekend. But even if they lead by nine games when the series ends, it won't change the real focus of this rivalry, and that's October.

New York's goal between now and then is to heal and then take care of business in the wild card play-in game against either Seattle or Oakland. That would set up a division series for the ages, with the one-hundred-and-something-win Red Sox taking on the one-hundred-and-something-win Yankees in the first playoff series between the storied rivals since the universe imploded and rearranged itself like something out of Inception in 2004.

Hard to believe, but the clubs haven't met in the postseason since Dave Roberts, David Ortiz, David Ortiz again, the bloody sock, and Johnny Damon lifted the Red Sox out of a 3-0 hole and into history. That's a long time, but it speaks to the rarely overlapping windows of contention each team has occupied in the 14 years since.

That's what makes 2018 so special. For a time it looked like the two clubs would fight for the division until the final day of the season. The Yankees might be too beat up for that to happen now (Jacoby Ellsbury hasn't played all year, Clint Frazier has spent most of the season on the DL, and right-hander Jordan Montgomery underwent Tommy John surgery), but the pennant race has effectively become one long spring training schedule anyway.

All that matters now are five games in October. It would be nice if we could just hit fast-forward to the good parts, because in terms of energy, that series will power every light between Back Bay and the Bronx.

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