The New York Yankees rolled into Boston on Thursday for a four-game series with the hopes of narrowing a 5.5-game deficit in the American League East. They left early this morning with tails between legs and a likely insurmountable 9.5-game chasm in the wake of a devastating Red Sox sweep.
Sunday’s finale was especially painful as Aroldis Chapman blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning. The inability to get the 27th out eliminated all hope of a divisional crown.
It’s a bitter pill for the Bombers, a team that has the third-best record in all of baseball (68-42) but knows its fate will come down to a Wildcard game. Or, if you’re one of the more volatile Chicken Littles, you see the Seattle Mariners five games back in the standings and wonder if there’s some way, anyway, that this incredible year ends without a playoff berth.
Perhaps the best thing for the Yankees is to — gasp — forget about the Red Sox for the next two month. Rivalry is a hell of a drug but the scalding-hot team from Massachusetts should not be the focal point going forward. The real race is out West — with Oakland and Seattle — for homefield and inclusion in a winner-take-all contest.
Boston is largely irrelevant to New York interests, even if the single-season win record is in play. Boston will be irrelevant to the Yankees until the playoffs. They can worry about playing better against their rivals when the time comes. Right now they need to worry about getting there.