Yankees left fielder Giancarlo Stanton reacts after striking out against the Red Sox on Aug. 2, 2018, at Fenway Park in Boston.


Keidel: After Horror Movie Of A Series, Yankees Staring At A Wild-Card Test

With Sweep, Red Sox Extend AL East To 9 1/2 Games

Jason Keidel
August 06, 2018 - 10:23 am

A good friend and rabid baseball devotee, Paul Sullivan, hosts a daily podcast -- called "Sully Baseball" -- covering our pastime. Born in Boston, Sully now lives in California, yet has not lost a single psalm from his Red Sox religion. Even during the dreary days of winter, when the NFL owns America's soul, he pounds out his MLB sermons. 

When he interviewed me Thursday night, I chirped and chided him as the Yankees started stacking up runs, darting out to a 3-0 lead before the fans even found their seats. Sully said he would rehearse his rain dance so that the wet skies would force the umps to call the game before the fifth inning. 

LISTEN: Gio, Jerry React To Red Sox Sweep Of Yankees

It worked. Sort of. Boston rained runs on the Yanks all night, flipping a 4-0 hole into a 15-7 drubbing in the first of this vital four-game set at Fenway Park over the weekend. And the Bronx Bombers never recovered, losing all four games in troubling ways. 

On Sunday night, the Yanks tried to save face; Boston further secured first place. As is often the reality when the Yankees play Boston, there's a two-pronged setback when the Bombers lose, not only a game against their rival but also in the standings. The Yankees (68-42) entered this series 5 1/2 games behind Boston (79-34) in the AL East. Now that lead has ballooned to 9 1/2 games, which means it's likely the Yankees will enter October facing a one-game, wild-card crucible against the Seattle Mariners or scalding Oakland A's (an MLB-best 33-10 since June 16). 

What makes this tumble down the standings against their longtime tormentors so haunting is the fact that the Yankees felt they were not only as good as the Red Sox, but also had a slight pitching edge. The Red Sox didn't have ace Chris Sale start a single game at Fenway because he was on the DL, while the Yankees had CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka (who had pitched 17-plus scoreless innings entering the series) and their own ace, Luis Severino, starting three of these four. So for at least three of these games, you grinned at the pitching matchup and could easily argue New York had a better arm on the mound. And the Yanks still got dumped into the Atlantic Ocean.  

J.A. Happ was sidelined with some disease that most of us had never even heard of until it sidelined him and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. But that hardly cast a shadow over the series. Not even Sonny Gray -- who seemed to migrate from Oakland to the Bronx via the Upside Down, a dubious place from the show "Stranger Things" -- was forced to start a game in Boston. Yet the Yankees, as a team, played like they walked through that thorny portal into that other universe, radioactive flakes falling all around them, stalked by that bloodthirsty, bulletproof predator.

And for the first time, Yankees manager Aaron Boone has been questioned in earnest. In what has been a charmed maiden season as Yankees skipper, Boone may have pulled Sabathia too soon in Thursday's game, after which Boston booted open the gate, through which came an avalanche of runs. Even Boone's bullpen, the bedrock slice of his roster, imploded Sunday night, blowing a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning to lose 5-4, the perfect way to bookend a nightmare road trip to Fenway.  

In a moment of rookie naivete, Boone suggested the horror movie of a series this weekend would somehow bring the club together, if not inspire them. There's no promise or potential in seeing your first-place deficit mushroom by four game in four days. Perhaps it was Boone's Midwestern mien and optimism. Or maybe after such a savage beating, he had nothing else to say. 

The Yankees couldn't even hit David Price, who's thrown like a high school pitcher against the Bombers since joining Boston. Yet on Sunday night, Price morphed into Warren Spahn, tossing five shutout innings before leaking a couple runs in the sixth. The Yankees had been pure kryptonite to Price, but all former realities were clearly inverted over these four surreal days. 

The Yankees seemed to plug some of their pitching holes in July. But Boston exposed them as being woefully deficient for a World Series contender. Indeed, only Tampa Bay's starters have thrown fewer innings than the Yankees' rotation since the All-Star Game. And while it's become an MLB mantra to have a conga line of arms in the bullpen, you need some semblance of starting staff to make a deep dent into October. 

Entering Sunday's game, the Red Sox and Yankees were each on pace to win over 100 games (112 and 101, respectively) -- which, curiously, has never happened in the same season. Now, the Yankees, who seemed to have a full house against the only team (Boston) with a better hand, feel woefully weak. You try not to overreact in either direction based on four games. But the Yankees had to at least split this series with the Red Sox. For these four games, at least, the Yankees look overwhelmed, overpowered and overrated.  

Boston was in the real world, and, right now, the AL East is their universe. The Yankees are just living in it. Maybe. 


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Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel