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And down the stretch they come

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  August 24, 2011 10:30 AM

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The Red Sox and Yankees are virtually tied for first place in the American League East. Let's take a look at which team may have the edge down the stretch in terms of the schedule:

RED SOX (78-50)
Games remaining: 34
Home/road: 19/15
Teams over .500: 24
Teams 10 games over .500: 17
Days off remaining: 3

Mitigating factors: After their two games at Texas this week, the Red Sox play all of their remaining games in the Eastern Time Zone. One road trip will be seven games, another six.

Injury report: The Sox hope to get Kevin Youkilis (back) back before Sept. 1. His return to form would be a significant boost. J.D. Drew and Bobby Jenks are being lined up to return when rosters expand. Drew could play a role in the outfield, but the oft-injured Jenks may be only a mop-up man.

YANKEES (77-49)
Games remaining: 36
Home/Road: 16/20
Teams over .500: 22
Teams 10 games over .500: 16
Days off remaining: 2

Mitigating factors: The Yankees have a nine-game road trip to Anaheim, Seattle and Toronto from Sept. 9-18. They also have to reschedule a make-up game with the Rays at home. Assuming that game is made up as part of a doubleheader on Sept. 20 or 21, the Yankees will close the season with 14 games over the final 13 days of the season.

Injury report: The Yankees should get Freddy Garcia (cut finger) back on Saturday, giving their rotation a quality starter.

ANALYSIS
By virtue of having fewer games and a greater percentage of them at home, the Red Sox would seem to have an advantage in the race. Both teams have aging players in key roles and how they hold up down the stretch could determine the division champion.

The other factor is to what degree each GM decides whether winning the division is a worthy goal. In previous years the Red Sox have put merit on the idea of resting players and lining up their rotation than going all out to win the division. The Yankees may have to do the same. Having CC Sabathia lined up for Game 1 of their division series is virtually a necessity given how much better he is than their other starters.

The Sox can afford to play for the tie if it comes to that. They've already won the season series with the Yankees, the first tiebreaker for the division title.

PREDICTION
Red Sox finish 97-65, the Yankees 95-67. In the end, that long road trip is not going to do the Yankees any favors. Those rescheduled rainouts won't help them, either.

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