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Could One Check Swing Change the Fortunes in the American League Playoff Race?

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In the course of a 162-game season, how much difference can one swing really make? This is a question that’s been debated for well over a century. In the case of the 2013 Red Sox and Yankees it might end up meaning the world. That could be overly dramatic, but Thursday night’s 9-8 Boston win in 10 innings felt like one of those season-defining games for both teams the way it unfolded.

While most of America was locked into the NFL opener, the AL East rivals played a throwback, intense rivalry game in the Bronx. Boston was up 7-2, before New York put up a six-spot in the seventh inning to take an unlikely lead. Mariano Rivera was an out away from a nailing down the win that would have pulled them within 1.5 games of Tampa in the Wild Card. Instead Stephen Drew dunked in a single to tie it.

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In the top of the 10th, with Joba Chamberlain pitching, Shane Victorino looked like he might have gone around for a third strike that would have ended the inning. First base ump Joe West said Victorino didn’t go around and he would go on to line a single into right to score Jacoby Ellsbury ahead of a throw from Ichiro for the eventual game-winning run. For all the talk about instant replay coming to baseball, ball and strikes will remain an umpire’s judgement call.

The Yankees went from an out away from a big, momentum-building win to a crushing defeat, which keeps them 2.5 back. The Sox remain on the threshold of winning the division.

Expect the Yankee fans (and certainly the team’s broadcasters) to bring up West’s call on Victorino’s swing from now until the end of the season — perhaps into the Hot Stove season should New York fall short of the postseason. Calls, like beauty, remain in the eye of the beholder.

Big picture: does this one play/call have a bigger impact that all the untold thousands of others throughout the course of the season since it took place in September? From an objective standpoint, probably not, all games and results be they from April or September count the same.Still, it’s something we’ll readily recall once October rolls around if the Yankees aren’t in the postseason.

Related: Billy Hamilton Debuts, Will Major League Basepaths Ever be the Same?

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