You call this a choke?
This is nothing. Just look west to old friend Grady Little, whose Dodgers have won eight times since July 16, when they were one game up San Diego in the NL West.
Today, they’re 6 ½ behind the Diamondbacks.
You think the Red Sox are choking by allowing the Yankees back in the race? Please.
On July 1, the Milwaukee Brewers held a 6 ½ game lead over the Chicago Cubs, and a 9½ game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now it’s a one-game margin over the Cubbies, and a 3½ game lead over the Cardinals, as the Brewers have won just 12 times in the past 47 days.
Let’s forget about the 14½ game lead that Boston enjoyed over the Yankees back in May, because we might as well reminisce about the dazzling career prospects of that adorable Tina Yothers it’s so far in the rear view mirror.
And still, wouldn’t you know it, Boston’s five-game lead over New York continues to be the largest in all of baseball.
NESN has already taken to hyping the three-game series between the two teams later this month, which seems a little much really, particularly with the challenges facing both straight in the headlights this weekend, when the Yankees will face the slumping but dangerous Tigers, while the Red Sox welcome the slumping but dangerous Angels.
The Angels come into Fenway for the first time since being swept out of Boston over Patriots Day weekend, and straight off losing two straight north of the border in Toronto, leaving them with a 29-32 road record for the season, worst among American League contenders.
Only the Angels possess a better home record (40-17) than the Red Sox (38-21), which is just one reason why it would make for an intriguing ALCS matchup. Boston lost two out of three in Anaheim last week and the teams kick off this weekend’s four-game set with a day-nighter tomorrow. The afternoon game will feature the major league debut of phenom Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to join the team for the night game.
Despite the overwhelming concerns on the offensive side of the ball (Kevin Youkilis is .217 since the break with 30 strikeouts, Jason Varitek, .241), the Red Sox seemingly have quality pitching seeping out of their pores. Since the break, Boston’s 3.84 ERA is third-best in the AL, but tops among contending squads (Toronto and Minnesota lead the way), closely followed by Cleveland and Los Angeles.
Got tickets for this weekend’s bouts in the Bronx? You might be there a while, as the Yankees have pitched to the tune of 4.49 ERA since the All-Star Game, while the Tigers have been just awful; their 5.59 ERA since the break is not the worst in the league because they’re blessed to call the Devil Rays compadres.
Against that New York offense, that could make for a frightening weekend, despite Detroit’s 36-26 road record, which is best in baseball. As good as the Tigers offense has been, since the break their 166 runs scored is still 80 fewer than New York has scored in that span.
No. 2 in runs scored since the break? Your supposedly offensively-challenged Red Sox, with 178.
As Yankees fans have watched this recent run by their team, they are more than willing to point out the 2006 Minnesota Twins, who went on a torrid stretch in the second half to wrestle the Central away from the Tigers. One year ago today, the Twins were still 8½ games back, while the Yankees are within pouncing distance at five games back.
But take a wild guess where Minnesota’s pitching ranked the second half of last year. It was indeed the best in baseball, a 3.50 ERA that helped the Twins go 49-27 with a so-so offense mostly led by eventual MVP Justin Morneau. Among contending teams with the best second-half ERA in 2007, would you believe it is the Colorado Rockies (3.55) who lead the way?
The Yankees have been impressive, but Joba Chamberlain or not, their pitching remains what it has been all along: subpar. Whether they can slug their way to October remains to be seen, but we’re fast approaching the days when balance is key.
Since the All-Star break, no team has hit better, scored more runs, or won with more frequency than the New York Yankees. But over that same period, no other team has pitched AND hit as well as the Boston Red Sox, as difficult as that may seem to comprehend after frustrating afternoons like yesterday.
Choke? Nah. Since July 1, the Yankees are 29-12, while the Red Sox are 23-17. Plenty of other teams would give plenty to have a mark like the one “slumping” Boston has put up. Ask the Dodgers.