For the first time in a month, the Yankees and Red Sox don't need to watch each other on scoreboards. They get to do it in person. In the process they remind us -- as if we ever need reminding about something like this in baseball -- that there is
For the first time in a month, the Yankees and Red Sox don't need to watch each other on scoreboards. They get to do it in person. In the process they remind us -- as if we ever need reminding about something like this in baseball -- that there is still nothing better than a big series, even on the first weekend in August.
The Yankees and the Red Sox play a four-game series at Fenway Park this weekend that will decide absolutely nothing in the American League East, except maybe what the end of September will look like, when we could find out which one of these teams won more than 100 games and still ended up in the AL Wild Card Game against the A's or Mariners.
It doesn't change the fact, for now, that this is the biggest summer series these two teams have played in a long time, in what is back to being baseball's biggest and best rivalry, even if fans of the Cubs and the Cardinals might think otherwise. And maybe this weekend, even with stars from both teams having to watch the game way the rest of us will, we will get a better idea of what the AL and the East will look like when the two teams do this again at Fenway on the final weekend of the regular season.
The Red Sox come into the series four games ahead of the Yankees in the loss column. Could be way more than that by Sunday night if Boston sweeps. Could be nothing in the loss column if the Yanks sweep. Or they could fight to a draw, and make you glad that there will still be six more games between the two clubs in September, one series at Yankee Stadium, one at Fenway. The Red Sox have been the better team this season up to this point, especially early when after 19 games they were 17-2 and the Yankees were 10-9. Boston was the better team in July as it stretched its lead again.
The last time the two teams faced each other was July 1, a Sunday night game in which the Yankees hit five home runs off David Price and won, 11-1. But they have been just 14-11 since, and began August by somehow falling behind what is left of the Orioles by a 7-1 score and eventually losing, 7-5.
Last weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., I asked Dennis Eckersley about this weekend's series. Eck smiled. "I want it to be great," he said.
A lot has changed in a month, for both teams. Chris Sale just went on the disabled list because of inflammation in his left shoulder. Luis Severino, the Yankees ace who pitched brilliantly against the Red Sox in that Sunday night game, has not looked like himself as of late. Aaron Judge got hurt. A year ago, Rafael Devers hit a ninth-inning, 103-mph heater from Albertin Chapman out of Yankee Stadium, tying a game that the Red Sox later won, and that might have been the biggest swing of the season in the AL East. Now Devers is on the DL, too. So is Gary Sanchez. If you think you're going to see Dustin Pedroia back on the field this season, raise a hand.
Since the Yankees and Red Sox last saw each other, the Yanks have added Zach Britton, J.A. Happ (going on the disabled list after being afflicted with hand, foot and mouth disease, same as the Mets' Noah Syndergaard was last month; it's kind of become a New York thing) and Lance Lynn. The Red Sox have added Nathan Eovaldi, Ian Kinsler and Steve Pearce. Even people in outer space can see the urgency from both teams to win it all this year. The Red Sox have the biggest payroll. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made the biggest gamble, essentially firing Joe Girardi as his manager after Girardi had brought the Yanks to within a win of the World Series.
Here is something Cashman noted the other day about the Red Sox, on a day when he said that all the contending teams making non-waiver Trade Deadline deals were "in it to win it":
"You wonder what their record would be if they weren't playing us. Because when we go head to head, we do some damage against them and it doesn't seem like anybody else is capable."
Well, yeah, the Yankees have done some damage, the way they did the night during that 11-1 triumph. But for now, going into Thursday's game, the Yankees have a 5-4 record against the Red Sox, have played one more home series against them and have been outscored by a team that is currently a fast 41 games over .500.
We talk a lot about all the young stars in baseball, because there are more of them right now than perhaps at any time in the game's history. A lot of them will be on the field at Fenway this weekend. But the real star this weekend is Yankees vs. Red Sox, and not just in Boston. A big series out of the past like that. Best of the season so far. Still nothing better than that.
Mike Lupica is a columnist for MLB.com. He also writes for the New York Daily News.