Aaron Judge

Adam Hunger/USA Today Sports

Aaron Judge setback latest misfortune to strike Red Sox' American League rivals

John Tomase
August 16, 2018 - 1:35 pm

The Red Sox are rampaging towards October, each victory bringing them closer to 100. They've already won 86 games, matching or surpassing 76 season totals in the franchise's 118-year history.

They're so good, it's easy to lose sight of their competition, obscured as it is beneath the clouds. But it's worth checking in on their primary American League playoff competitors, because they're each battling major issues.

Start with the Yankees. Three weeks ago, slugger Aaron Judge suffered a chip fracture of his wrist after being hit by a pitch. Back then, the Yankees estimated he could return today. But Judge has yet to swing a bat, recently received a cortisone shot, and doesn't appear close.

"It's taking longer," GM Brian Cashman told WFAN's Mike Francesa. "Normally, we underpromise/overperform where we give an extended round. We thought maybe three weeks would cover it. But it's going to be longer than that. So, we missed on the timeframe."

The Yankees trailed the Red Sox by 4 1/2 games the day Judge was injured. They've since gone 10-9 without him to fall 10 games behind. They're simply not the same dynamic offense without him.

Making matters worse, their thin starting pitching staff is missing left-hander CC Sabathia, who's on the DL battling right knee inflammation. Meanwhile, slugger Gary Sanchez has only appeared in three games since the start of July, though he was having a rough season even when healthy, hitting just .188.

Then there are the Indians. They've quietly won 10 of their last 12, including a pair of walk-offs. They're top-heavy on both sides of the ball, so to speak, with superstars Francisco Lindor (.291-29-75-.926) and Jose Ramirez (.302-36-89-1.045) pacing the offense as MVP candidates, and Cy Young contenders Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.22) and Corey Kluber (15-6, 2.68) leading the rotation.

Except Bauer might be done for the season after suffering a stress fracture in his right fibula on Saturday when a Jose Abreu line drive drilled him. Bauer is in a walking boot, and the Indians won't know for a few days if he'll be able to pitch again this year.

"It's going to heal when it heals," manager Terry Francona told reporters in Cincinnati, including Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com.

The Indians own an even bigger lead (12 1/2 games) in the woeful Central than the Red Sox do in the East. With All-Star closer Brad Hand helping stabilize their bullpen since arriving from the Padres, the Indians appeared to be finding their footing. Now they face season-ending uncertainty over one of the best starters in the American League.

That's not their only issue. Danny Salazar is done after undergoing right shoulder surgery. Outfielders Lonnie Chisenhall and Tyler Naquin could be out for the season. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion is on the DL. Outfielder Leonys Martin is recovering from a life-threatening bacterial infection. While Francona and Co. are adept at finding a way, that's a lot to overcome.

Then there are the Astros. After comfortably leading the AL West for most of the season, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives against the A's, who have made up eight games in the standings over the last five weeks and now trail by only two with the squads opening a three-game series in Houston on Friday.

The A's have won 17 of their last 23, while the Astros have lost 11 of 17 and five of six. Jose Altuve is on the disabled list with a knee injury that's expected to sideline him until the end of the month. The same goes for catcher Brian McCann following knee surgery. Outfielder Jake Marisnick is out indefinitely with a groin strain. Ten-game winner Lance McCullers is out until September and maybe beyond with a forearm strain. All-Star outfielder George Springer is at least expected to return from a thumb injury in time for Friday's opener.

In any event, that's a lot of adversity for Boston's three primary postseason rivals. It looks like another indicator that everything is breaking the Red Sox' way this crazy season.