On August 18, 2006, the Yankees started a five-game series with the Red Sox with a rare Friday doubleheader. As usual, the two teams were battling it out atop the AL East. The Yankees, at 70-48, were a game and a half up on the Red Sox, though they had dropped the previous two games to Baltimore and were 4-6 in their last 10. The Sox, too, were 4-6 in their last ten. Yet none of that mattered on the afternoon of the 18th. All that mattered were the five games at hand, surely a series which would determine the fate of the AL East.
What followed was one of the most memorable Red Sox series in recent years. The Yankees offense stepped up, putting up double digit runs in the first three games of the series, taking them all. They put up an eight spot on Sunday to take that matchup, and then finally won a light-hitting affair on Monday, 2-1 to cap what has been dubbed the modern Boston Massacre. Five games, five Yankees wins. On the morning of August 22, the Yankees woke up to a 6.5 game lead, one they would not relinquish.
At the time, I could hardly believe those four days and five games actually happened. The two teams seemed evenly matched. They’d been atop the division all year. If you told me on Friday morning that either team would win all five, or even four of those games and I’d have said you were nuts. Beyond nuts. That you didn’t understand the ebbs and flows of a season, and more than that the anyone-can-win-any-game nature of baseball. Funny how things work out sometimes.
On August 6, 2009, the Red Sox head down to the Bronx, two and a half games down in the AL East. Both teams have spent time atop the division this year, and the series is critical for both. Again, if you tell me that either team will take all four, I’ll say you’re nuts. Two teams of this caliber shouldn’t have many lopsided affairs. In fact, they’ve had too many already this season.
Yet I can’t shake the notion of the Yankees burying the Red Sox right here. A sweep would put them six and a half games up, exactly how many they were ahead after the Boston Massacre. While it’s not quite as late in the season, it’s late enough for a team like the Yankees. That would be an enormous cushion that they could build on in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the Red Sox would be scrambling for the Wild Card.
It’s not likely. It’s not really necessary, either. Considering their eight-game deficit to the Red Sox already, the Yanks would do well to take three of four. Still, it’s almost impossible to not think back to those four euphoric days in August 2006. They turned the season in the Yankees’ favor. We can only hope the next four games have a similar effect.