Another week for the Boston Red Sox, another series win against New York.
In The Yankees' Heads
In a purely pragmatic sense, the weekend series against the Yankees only really served to give the Sox a one-game lead in a largely unimportant race thanks to the wild card. You could even make it 1.5 given the tie-breaker of the head-to-head record now firmly being in Boston's favor.
But is that really all there is to it? On Monday, the question was asked on ESPN whether the Sox are now "in the Yankees' heads," and I find it hard to imagine they aren't. Unless the Yankees pull off a great finish to the season series, it's hard to imagine they would feel terribly good about their chances against the Red Sox given the way things have gone so far. Bartolo Colon seems to be the only member of their rotation who isn't hit hard ust about every time they face the Red Sox, and even when they do pick up a strong outing from a starter, Mariano Rivera has a tendency to become mortal against Boston.
Don't get me wrong: the Yankees are a veteran team and they're not about to give up before Game 1, should both teams even make it to the ALCS in the first place. But if the Yankees go into such a series with any doubt as to whether or not they can win, then that makes it all the more possible for the Red Sox to get them to shut down with an early lead.
Clutch Hits Becoming The Norm
The Red Sox are 5-2 since last Monday, and only one of those games was won in the first eight innings.
Of course, Jacoby Ellsbury was the hero against the Indians, providing walk-off hits on both Wednesday and Thursday-the first time any Sox player has hit back-to-back walkoffs since David Ortiz did the job in 2006. The Yankees series saw the one blowout win-a 10-4 victory over CC Sabathia-as well as another walkoff. This time the Sox not only had to pick up a walkoff hit courtesy of Josh Reddick, but also come back in the ninth against the great Mariano Rivera. Even when no walkoff is possible on the road, the Sox are enjoying some great late-game performance thanks to David Ortiz, who added to his prolific history of clutch performances with a ninth-inning go-ahead single-one of four hits that game.
What's masked some, however, is that the Red Sox are running into some general run-scoring difficulty these days. While their average looks fine thanks to a pair of high-scoring affairs, the Sox have scored between two-and-four runs in five of their last seven. This has been something of a trend all year for the Sox, really, with a run of big offense standing in stark contrast to surrounding periods of relative ineffectiveness. Don't call them streaky just yet, but the signs are there, if only faintly.
Carl Crawford Surging Back
As much as he's been having a down year, Carl Crawford has put together some of the most successful bursts of offense the Red Sox have seen this season. There was the 8-for-9 performance against Cleveland and Detroit earlier this year, for instance. And now, one-and-a-half months later, he's done it again, and done it against the Yankees. Against Boston's greatest rivals, Crawford started 0-for-2, and then picked up a hit in nine of his next ten at bats.
The streak has brought Crawford's OPS up to .693. While that figure is still far from what Sox fans expected, it does include an .800 figure since his return from the disabled list which is a lot more typical for the All-Star left fielder.
Wakefield Can't Find 200
Tim Wakefield has tried for win number 200 three times now, provided three quality starts in the process, and gone 0-1 with two no decisions.
For the most part, Wakefield has been the victim of poor offense, with the Sox putting up only four games in his first two attempts. Monday, though, the issue was the defense, which allowed a pair of unearned runs to cross the plate, and the bullpen, after Alfredo Aceves gave up a rare run in the eighth.
Still, as much as it's tempting to feel bad for Wake, he can't really blame an offense for costing him runs when he's 6-4 despite a 4.92 ERA. Two of Wakefield's wins came in outings where he gave up as many or more runs than he did pitch innings. One of those wins came against Seattle, who will be his next opponent. Hopefully he'll avoid giving up seven runs this time around.