By Norm Elrod
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have one of the more storied rivalries in baseball, and possibly all of sports. So an early-August series at Fenway between the two, with both teams in the midst of strong seasons, seemed likely to add another chapter, or at least a few paragraphs.
And it did, with the Red Sox sweeping the Yankees to push their MLB-best record to 79-34 and their American League East lead to 9 1/2 games. (That lead is now nine games.) Boston dumped 14 runs on New York to open the series, and then limited them to one run in each of the next two games.
But, the fourth game was the Yankees’ to win. Leading 4-1 in the ninth, closer, Aroldis Chapman, gave up three walks and then a two-run single. A throwing error brought home the tying run and sent the game into extra innings, where the Red Sox won on a single up the middle.
With almost two months left in the season, the Yankees still have a shot at the division title, at least mathematically. But overtaking the best team in baseball, who just keep finding ways to win, became a whole lot harder.
The AL East division race isn’t as competitive as it could be, and the Indians have the AL Central well in hand, up 10 games on the Twins. But other division races are heating up. In the AL West, the Astros face a challenge from the surging Athletics.
Each of the three divisions in the National League has at least three teams with a shot. The Phillies lead the NL East, but the Braves and Nationals, embroiled in their own four-games series, aren’t far behind. The Cubs lead the Brewers by 1 1/2 games in the NL Central. In the NL West, the Dodgers, Rockies and Giants are all within six games of the Diamondbacks, making for a complete mess.
Many of these division races include individual races that could possibly play into the outcome. Three of the four leading Cy Young contenders — Chris Sale (Red Sox) and Justin Verlander (Astros) in the NL and Max Scherzer (Nationals) in the NL — are a big part of their teams’ success so far, and should continue to be down the stretch.
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