First, a quick review of the standings, in advance of this weekend's four-game, wraparound series between the Yankees and the Red Sox: Thanks to Tampa Bay's loss to Minnesota yesterday, the Yankees regained sole possession of first place in the American League East, while the Red Sox moved to within five and a half games of the wild card — an impressive position, really, given the wicked string of injuries they've endured.
It's been a mixed bag for the Red Sox this week: Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the lineup and they've won seven out of ten, but Kevin Youkilis received word that his season was over. (Carlos Delgado, last seen playing for the Mets fifteen months ago, will reportedly work out for the club in hopes of backing up Mike Lowell.) You can understand why a Boston columnist might bring up 2006's Boston Massacre 2.0 — a repeat of which would just about end any chance of Boston catching the Yankees.
Of course, the Yankees aren't exactly playing their best baseball of the season: Alex Rodriguez no longer has to think about hitting his 600th home run, but they dropped series to both Tampa Bay and Toronto. So perhaps a four-game sweep is too much to ask. (At the very least, Derek Jeter should pass that Boston fan favorite Babe Ruth on the all-time hits list this weekend.)
But that's no reason not to think big. And even though Tampa looks to be the Yankees' real competition this year, the possibility of derailing Boston's season still qualifies as big. The attempt to do so begins tonight, with Javier Vazquez against Clay Buchholz.