The race is over. After a four-game sweep of the Yankees, capped off by a comeback against Aroldis Chapman and the vaunted Yankees bullpen, the Red Sox now have a 9.5-game lead, the largest division lead in baseball. They are 79-34, and on pace for 113 wins, which would be the best record in franchise history.
The four-game sweep, just the Sox’s seventh over the Yankees in the last century, was a thorough walloping in every aspect you’d expect it, and, on Sunday, where you might not. The Yankees’ starting pitching is their weak spot, and it got knocked around. Their offense is scuffling and without two middle-of-the-order guys, and it came up lame. But New York’s bullpen is its strength, MLB’s best.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are an incredible 12-25 in games they trail by at least three runs, so nothing was routine when Aroldis Chapman came on to start the ninth with a 4-1 lead. He walked three guys (mixing in two strikeouts) to load the bases for J.D. Martinez, who made it 4-3 with a single to center. A Miguel Andújar error (his second of the game) tied things up. Then, in the 10th inning, Andrew Benintendi singled in the winning run off Jonathan Holder.
“We’re just having fun,” Benintendi said. “Nobody is stressing in here, really. We’re just going out and we know we have a pretty good team. And when we’re loose is when we play the best. That’s what we’re trying to do.
“A tough way to end a tough weekend,” is how Aaron Boone described it, and it was just the Yankees’ second loss in the last decade where they entered the ninth leading by at least three runs (the other was also to the Red Sox, of course). If there’s a silver lining, it’s that the Yankees can forget about Boston for the next couple of months; they’re not catching them. Instead, New York has to concern itself with the wild card race, which is not nearly the runaway it was even four days ago. The Yankees are 2.5 up on the A’s for the first wild card, and just 5 games ahead of the Mariners for the final playoff spot.
Here is an incredible baseball factoid: Since the AL went to a 162-game schedule in 1961, the Red Sox have never won 100 games. Not ever, despite some great teams. That drought is going to end this season, and it’s going to end in shockingly early September. They’re going to have the best record in baseball, which mean they’ll get the winner of the wild card play-in game in the divisional round, and they match up very, very well against whomever it might be. Even—especially—if it’s the Yankees.