After their brief sojourn to the Left Coast, the Yankees return for a six-game homestand, their final six home games of the regular season. (They have a three-game set in St. Petersburg, Florida, to end the season, which probably seemed a lot more important when the schedule was set than it turned out to be.) The odds are excellent that the Yankees will secure the AL East title before hitting the road again — their magic number is five — but will they do it against the Red Sox?
They’ll need a sweep, and the toughest test will come tonight, against Jon Lester. The Yankees trot out the disintegrating Joba Chamberlain, who is pitching not just for a playoff rotation slot, but perhaps even a spot on the postseason roster altogether.
If he can pull it together and the Yanks can sneak out a win, look out, because they have the matchup edges on both Saturday and Sunday. It’s CC Sabathia versus Daisuke Matsuzaka tomorrow, with Andy Pettitte facing Paul “Mid-Season Acquisition” Byrd on Sunday. Of course, a sweep in the other direction, while inconceivable, would not only make the Yankees sweat the season’s final week a bit, but would also likely require the Yanks to clinch the division at Tropicana Field. And no one wants that.
By the way, the Red Sox have their own magic number to count down this weekend: They need a combination of wins and Texas Rangers losses to add up to three, and they’ve clinched at least a wild-card spot. And even though 2004 was five years ago, we’ve seen enough Red Sox celebrating in the Bronx, haven’t we?