(Long Island, NY) What appeared to be a fight to the finish will end up a one horse race. September will not be the same as the Yankees pulled away from the Boston Red Sox towards the end of August. Injuries spelled disaster in Beantown, and with the trade of David Wells to San Diego, the Sox submitted.
A role reversal from earlier in the season when Boston was out in front and the Bombers had the Disabled List being filled. Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield are still out, but the emergence of Melky Cabrera and the acquisition of Bobby Abreau stemmed the tide.
The writing was on the wall when Boston dropped two series in a row to American League weak sisters Tampa Bay and Kansas City. They later hosted the Yanks for a 5 game set which would dictate the rest of the season.
A five game sweep either way was the last thing anyone expected. But that is exactly what happened, in favor of the Bombers. A thorough shellacking was handed to the depleted Red Sox, which blew the Yanks’ lead in the division wide open.
The injuries have been mounting in Boston. Captain Jason Varitek went down with a bad knee, and although he was replaced by Javy Lopez via a trade with Baltimore (who has since been released when Varitek returned), the production from the catcher’s spot dropped. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez then was next. Rookie starting pitcher Jon Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma after initially straining his back and being placed on the Disabled List. And recently, star rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon had to leave a game after experiencing shoulder pain.
Some of the walking wounded have returned, but it looks like it may be too late to matter. The July 31st and August 31st (waiver) trading deadlines have both passed and the only move that Boston has made was moving Wells. By comparison, the Yankees picked up Abreau, starter Corey Lidle and first baseman/outfielder Chris Wilson.
What used to be an automatic wild card consolation prize for the second place team in the AL East has changed. Strong seasons from three teams in the Central have changed the landscape of the Junior Circuit. The surprising Detroit Tigers have led, with the 2005 World Series champion Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins look like they will battle it out to the end for the wild card spot.
Many predictions had the Yankees winning the division and possibly more. So far, that looks to be falling into place. The difference is that their route will not include Boston.