What was once a thrilling neck-and-neck race in the American League East has now turned into a procession.
It was the first time Boston swept a four-game series against an opponent that entered the match-up at least 30 games above .500 since 1939, also against the Yankees.
New York were already in a precarious, but manageable, position coming into Fenway Park, and needed to, at worst, split the series to avoid losing more ground.
The chance to stay level was lost when the Red Sox secured a 4-1 win in the third game, but the nail in the coffin came in the final meeting.
Red Sox just ripped out the Yankees' heart and threw it in the Charles River pic.twitter.com/han42dtMzO— Starting 9 (@Starting9) August 6, 2018
Just when it appeared the Yankees would fire a parting shot on their way out of town, Boston erased a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning before Andrew Benintendi delivered a walk-off single in the 10th.
For New York, the damage is hard to ignore.
In the divisional era (since 1969), only three teams have ever climbed out of a hole of 9.5 games or more in August or later – the 1993 Atlanta Braves, the 1995 Seattle Mariners and the 2006 Minnesota Twins.
The Yankees themselves came back from an 8.5-game deficit in 1978, when they stormed back on Boston and beat them in a one-game playoff for the AL East crown – history that can serve as a rallying cry for New York in the final stretch of the season.
Despite the nightmarish scenario the Yankees now find themselves in, manager Aaron Boone doesn’t believe all hope is lost.
“This is a test we are going through no question. We have some adversity being dinged up roster-wise, but we’ll come out a lot tougher,” Boone said.
“This is a weekend hopefully we’ll look back on that brought us together and grow as a club. We’ll move on.”
There’s still a slim chance of New York making the division race interesting again, mostly due to the fact they have the second-easiest remaining schedule of any team in the league, according to Baseball Prospectus. They also have six head-to-head clashes against the Red Sox.
But the harsh reality for the Yankees is that they’re trying to catch a runaway train in the Red Sox, who have been far and away the best team in baseball this season and are having the most successful regular-season campaign in the franchise’s storied history.
Boston simply refuse to lose, as their 79-34 record puts them on pace for 113 wins, which would be the fourth-best mark in MLB history.
While the Red Sox have sustained their strong play with seemingly no hiccups, New York are just 18-20 over their last 38 games and look shaky in every facet – from their starting pitching, to their bullpen, to their bats going quiet.
The Yankees’ offence has been hindered by injuries to Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, with the former dealing with a chip fracture in his wrist, and the latter on the 10-day disabled list with a groin issue.
At this point, New York have to set their sights on the Wild Card game and do everything they can to click at the end of the season, leading up to the elimination contest.
Having their entire season come down to one game is a tough pill to swallow for a team that has the third-best record in baseball, but the Yankees have the misfortune of going against an absolute juggernaut in their division this year.
Another MLB trade deadline has come and gone to shift the league’s landscape.
It’s impossible to say if any of the 43 trades since July 15 – Including 13 on the final day – will play a crucial role in who ends up winning the whole thing, but for now, some teams have added ammo for the stretch run, while others made head-scratching decisions.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers from the trade deadline.
The moves they made ahead of the deadline aren’t going to make them better for the rest of this season, but they could benefit the Rays for years to come.
By snagging Tommy Pham from the St. Louis Cardinals at a steep discount, they got a centre fielder with pop who can be a contributor now and later.
By trading away Chris Archer, they netted two post-hype prospects in Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow for a pitcher who has been on the decline since 2015.
As they say in football, this was a good bit of business.
Duh. They got one of the best players in baseball in Manny Machado. He could very well end up being a rental, but difference-makers like that don’t grow on trees.
Closer to the deadline, they also picked up Brian Dozier, who struggled for most of the first half of the season before showing more signs of life in July.
They lost a top prospect in Yusniel Diaz, but when you came within a win of a World Series title the year before and are in the thick of the fight for a playoff spot this season, it makes sense to go for it.
You can argue the players they got back for blowing it up isn’t inspiring, but they ultimately succeeded in their goal of replenishing their farm system and accelerating a rebuild.
If they had made these moves this past offseason, or even before then, who knows what they could have received. So in that sense, their haul could have been better.
But as far as this moment in time, they did what they had to and can now turn the page to the future.
The Pirates felt the need to ship out Gerrit Cole in the offseason for an underwhelming package, but are now compelled to acquire Archer when they’re three games back in the wild car race? It’s simply puzzling.
Archer has appeal as a hurler who’s under team control until 2021 at a cheap price, but his reputation is much better than his production right now. His earned run average hasn’t been below 4.00 since 2015 and has since gotten worse every year.
It’s nice to see Pittsburgh as buyers instead of sellers for once, but the thought process behind their moves is confusing.
Making your top acquisition a player who is currently serving a suspension for violating the MLB-MLBPA domestic violence policy is never a smart move, but especially for a loaded Astros team that didn’t need to go that low.
Will Roberto Osuna help their bullpen? Sure. But Houston could have done that with a number of other guys. Instead they went out and traded for Osuna because the Toronto Blue Jays were willing to sell low.
And who knows how this affects their chemistry – something that seemed important to their championship run last season.
In the landscape of US sports, Major League Baseball should be owning this time of the year when NBA free agency is essentially wrapped up and the NFL’s preseason slate has yet to get under way.
MLB is owning headlines. But unless they subscribe to the theory that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, it’s in the worst possible way.
Not once, not twice, but three times over the past two weeks have offensive and racist tweets by current players resurfaced on social media.
Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader was the first to come under the microscope after his ugly tweets were brought to light during the All-Star Game.
Then, on Sunday, Atlanta Braves pitcher Sean Newcomb and Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner saw old tweets of theirs get the same treatment.
In all three cases, there were slurs and racist undertones. You didn’t have to try to find offence in them – they were clear as day.
Trea Turner issued a statement. pic.twitter.com/5ZFbn2AH5E— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) July 30, 2018
Do those tweets necessarily mean Hader, Newcomb and Turner are racist? No. The tweets are from years ago and all three players are currently in their mid-20s. It’s entirely possible they’ve grown as people since then.
But the evolution of their social consciousness isn’t going to make the negative impact on the league any softer. MLB can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube – their image has been tarnished and for many, reinforced.
The timing couldn’t be worse. Not just for the aforementioned reason that MLB are unrivalled during this stretch of the summer, but, at least in the case of Hader and Newcomb, it’s come at the exact moment when they should be getting attention for their play on the field.
Hader’s tweets came up during the All-Star Game, his first in a season in which he’s boasting an earned run average of 1.39 and has 96 strikeouts in 51.2 innings, while Newcomb’s were dug out on the night he was one out away from a no-hitter.
There’s plenty of conversation around baseball that focuses on how to fix the game and appeal to people of colour, especially African-Americans. But if fans can’t even fully celebrate the current players and get behind what they do, how is the league going to tackle those bigger issues?
If the transgressions were contained to Hader, Newcomb and Turner, that would be one thing. You can explain away past actions, especially during adolescent years.
But what’s the excuse for current behaviour, like the appalling reaction Brewers fans at Miller Park had for Hader in his first appearance since the offensive tweets snafu?
They not only embraced Hader, they gave him a standing ovation. He was promptly booed in his first road-game appearance, but the actions of Milwaukee’s fans on that day spoke volumes.
Baseball player Josh Hader was exposed for making a series of racist, anti-Black tweets, and when he stepped on the field today, he received a standing ovation from thousands of suspected white supremacists in the audience.— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) July 22, 2018
Anti-Black hatred is a completely normalized culture pic.twitter.com/plYAFyQfB5
At a time when United States President Donald Trump is calling NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality “sons of b******”, fans at a baseball game are giving a white player who once tweeted the n-word and other slurs a standing ovation.
Just when MLB seemingly couldn’t look worse, they shot themselves in the foot by tweeting out a racist joke featuring Shohei Ohtani and Ichiro Suzuki greeting each other, in the form of the “*Spider-Man pointing meme*” – which, if you don’t know, insinuates that two things are the same.
Get it? Because Ohtani and Ichiro are both Japanese. Let’s ignore everything else about them and how they couldn’t be more different in terms of physical build and playing style, and instead laugh at how they’re both Asian.
The Tweet was deleted almost immediately. But once again, the damage was done.
If the NBA is the most socially conscious league and the NFL is split in that regard with its players on one side of the line and its owners on the other, MLB is nowhere to be found on the map.
Instead of that gap narrowing, it appears to be only getting bigger.