Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Yankees are coming and all I can do is stifle a yawn

Moments like this against the Red Sox and Angels have been exceedingly rare for the Yankees in 2009. Photo from this site.

If it’s July, it must be time for the Yankees to make their annual run at the Red Sox. In 2005, the Yankees went 11-2 from July 2 through July 18, during which they went from six games back of the Sox to a half-game up. The Yankees promptly fell out of first place July 19 but returned there Sept. 21 and ended up winning the division by a tiebreaker over the Sox.

In 2006, the Yankees went 19-9 from July 1 through Aug. 3 to turn a four-game deficit into a one-game lead. They never relinquished first place on their way to winning the East by 10 games over the Blue Jays and 11 games over the third-place Sox.

In 2007, the Yankees went 15-4 from July 5 through July 25 to gain 5 ½ games on the Sox, but their most serious run at the Sox would occur in late September, when the Yankees twice moved within 1 ½ games before finishing second, two games back.

Last year, the Yankees won their first eight games after the All-Star Break to shave the Rays’ lead from six games to three and close within one game of the wild card-leading Sox, though the Yankees didn’t get any closer the rest of the way and finished eight games behind the Rays and six behind the Sox.

The Yankees appear to be in the midst of another red-hot post-All-Star Break run: They improved to 4-0 since THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WON THE GAME THAT COUNTS MORE THAN ALL THE REST!!!!! and tied the suddenly skidding Sox atop the AL East with a 2-1 win over the Orioles last night.

As noted in the final chapter of Fighting Words (shameless plug!), Sox players didn’t appreciate the perceived hysteria among the media masses during the Yankees’ mid-summer runs from 2005 through 2007. But you won’t find any hand-wringing here over the approaching Yankees, not with their very recent inability to sustain momentum upon earning at least a share of first place.

This is the second time this month the Yankees have, in a matter of days, made up a three-game deficit and tied the Sox for first place. On July 9, the Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Twins while the Sox fell to the Royals. The Yankees then went west and gave up 29 runs in enduring a three-game sweep at the hands of the Angels while the Sox won three in a row against the Royals.

In addition, the Yankees began a three-game series against the Sox June 9 with a one-game lead. They were swept by the Sox by a combined score of 17-8 and went on to fall as many as five games out on June 23-24.

The Yankees’ current run is, admittedly, an impressive one fueled by pitching instead of their vaunted video game offense: They’ve won the four games despite scoring just 11 runs and have won the last three by 2-1 scores, the first time an American League team has done that since the 1987 Twins.

That Twins team went on to win the World Series, but it’s kind of difficult to take these Yankees seriously as a championship contender considering they’re 2-12 against the Sox and Angels, the top two teams in the AL. Of course, with six games left this week against the last-place Orioles and Athletics, the Yankees will have plenty of opportunity to fatten up before facing the wild card-contending Rays and the AL Central-contending White Sox next week.

Don’t be in a rush to reserve first place for the Yankees tonight, though. The Yankees’ scheduled starter tonight is Sergio Mitre, who hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2007 and posted a 5.36 ERA in five years with the Cubs and Marlins. The Sox, meanwhile, start Josh Beckett for the first time in nine days as he opposes Rangers rookie Tommy Hunter. I’d expect the tie to be broken—in favor of the Sox—by this time tomorrow morning.

Email Jerry at jbeach73@gmail.com.

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