Yankees Pull Closer to Red Sox

After a solid 6-1 victory last night against the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Yankees pulled within seven games of the AL East leading Boston Red Sox, helped by the Kansas City Royals beating up on Boston and winning 6-5 at Fenway Park. The Yankees were 14.5 games behind the Red Sox on May 29th and had previously pulled within seven games before the lead expanded again. The Yankees are now 6-1 after the All-Star break, beating Tampa Bay and Toronto, whereas the Red Sox are a measly 3-4 against Toronto and Kansas City.

There was a lot of speculation before the All-Star break that the Yankees were essentially done for the year and that the Red Sox had the division locked up. However, not many people were ready to rule the Yankees completely out of it.

“Are the Yankees back in it? They were never out of it,” said Red Sox center fielder Coco Crisp, who has been playing better individually as of late. The Red Sox finished June with a 13-14 record and have followed it up with a 7-8 July through last night’s game, a vast difference from the Bronx Bombers who are 27-15 in their last 42 games.

It is said that if you are in second place, the most games back you want to be are the number of games left you have against the first place team. The Yankees are seven games back now, with six games remaining against the Red Sox; their next meeting will be August 28-30 in the Bronx.

Despite the Yankees rolling as of late, some Red Sox players don’t seem to worry at all. “You know what? They still have to catch us. We don’t have to catch anybody,” said Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, who has raised his average to .218 as of late (Lugo went into the All-Star break hitting .197 on the year). There may be some concern for Boston fans, as their team now seems to be playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

The injury bug has also hit the Red Sox, although not nearly as bad as what the Yankees suffered through earlier in the year. David Ortiz announced last week that he has a torn meniscus that may require surgery at the end of the year. The knee is not inflamed, which is why he has been able to play through the pain. Additionally, Manny Ramirez is having one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .292 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI. Last year Manny hit .321 with 35 home runs and and 102 RBI, a down year for him. Curt Schilling, who is currently on the disabled list, looks to stay there until at least the beginning of August and the pitching staff has not been able to fully step up while he is gone.

Julian Tavarez, who said earlier this season that the Red Sox were better off without Roger Clemens, last 4 2/3 against the Royals last night, allowing six runs (four earned) on nine hits. According to ESPN.com, he is 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA and has allowed 42 hits in his last 23 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox will host the Chicago White Sox this weekend, followed by a road trip to Cleveland and then Tampa Bay. The Yankees will host the Devil Rays this weekend, followed by visits to Kansas City and Baltimore.

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