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Too early to call the AL East? Not for these Sox

Powerhouse Boston not giving rival Yankees any room for error
August 24, 2018

BOSTON -- You thought coming into the week that the Yankees could still make a move on the Red Sox, maybe show that there was one last chapter about the rivals and the American League East still to be written. The Red Sox were about to play four against the

BOSTON -- You thought coming into the week that the Yankees could still make a move on the Red Sox, maybe show that there was one last chapter about the rivals and the American League East still to be written. The Red Sox were about to play four against the Indians and old friend Terry Francona at Fenway, and Chris Sale was back on the disabled list. The Yankees? Even with all their injuries, they had two with the Marlins in Miami that were supposed to be like a little slice of heaven.
Then the Red Sox lost the first two games against the Indians at Fenway, which meant they had lost three in a row for the first time all season. The Yankees survived an extra-inning game against the Marlins that Miami really should have won in the ninth and then the 10th. Just like that, the Red Sox lead in the loss column was seven games. The Red Sox had Christopher Johnson pitching against Carlos Carrasco, 15-6 going into Wednesday night, in the third game of their Indians series.
Then two things happened to the top two teams in the AL East and the AL and all of baseball: The Yankees got pounded 9-3 by the Marlins. The Red Sox beat the Indians 10-4. On Thursday afternoon, I watched the Sox turn around a scoreless game to a six-run lead in a blink in the bottom of the fifth and David Price dazzle again. The Red Sox are ahead eight in the loss column and 9 1/2 games overall, and what they really did over the past few days was remind everybody why their best is still better than everybody else's.

The Red Sox still have a tough September schedule. So, too, do the Yankees, with a West Coast trip that will take them to Oakland and Seattle. There are still six regular-season games left between the Red Sox and Yankees. Maybe the Yankees will have Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and Albertin Chapman and Didi Gregorius back and healthy by then. But maybe, and more sensibly, the next meaningful game to talk about with these two teams is the one that might be played on Oct. 5 at Fenway -- what would be Game 1 of a five-game Division Series between them.
The Red Sox and Yankees have not met in the postseason since 2004. It was the year after the guy managing the Yankees now, Aaron Boone, hit a bottom-of-the-11th home run off Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at the old Yankee Stadium. And you thought the two teams could never top that, until the Red Sox came from 0-3 down the next year, in the most famous comeback and baseball story of them all.
The Red Sox are going to have the best record in the league. It looks as if the Yankees will play in the AL Wild Card Game, either at home or in Houston or Oakland, depending on which of those teams wins the AL West. If the Yankees win it, they will win a trip to Fenway, where they hope to show up with the team that made the kind of run it did at the Red Sox in May and June. The two teams have played 13 times in the regular season, the Red Sox winning eight, having swept a four-game series at Fenway the last time they met.
One three-game series left at Yankee Stadium, one at Fenway. Those games could still mean something, especially the three at Fenway that will end the regular season. Just maybe not as much as we thought they would when the Yankees were the ones hitting five homers off Price on July 1 and beating the Red Sox 11-1.
Since then the Red Sox have been 10 games better in the loss column. And Price, the guy on whom Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spent $217 million, has pitched like, well, a $217 million guy. Price threw eight scoreless innings against the Indians on Thursday afternoon. It means in six starts since the All-Star break, he has an ERA of 1.09. Further, the Sox are now 16-2 in Price's last 18 starts, 8-0 in his last eight. And he has won his last nine starts at Fenway, during which his record has been 7-0 and his ERA has been 2.19.
Price may have a prickly and complicated relationship with the Boston media. But these days, the citizens of Red Sox Nation like Price just fine. After Thursday night -- three hits, no walks, seven strikeouts, 101 pitches -- someone asked if this was his best stretch since coming to the Red Sox as a free agent.
"By far, absolutely," he said. "To not have really bad games mixed in at some point, that's good. This is the pitcher Boston signed. To get back to that, it's about time."
Maybe there is still time for the last chapter in the AL East. The Yankees get four with the Orioles this weekend and the Red Sox get three in St. Petersburg against the extremely feisty Rays. But maybe the Yankees really should already be looking at Oct. 5, and Game 1 at Fenway. If they can get there.

Mike Lupica is a columnist for