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September 22, 2009 1:40 PM

Can the Red Sox Actually Catch the Yankees?

Somewhat quietly, the Red Sox have trimmed the Yankees' lead in the AL East from nine games to just five games since Sept. 9. Boston has won 10 of their last 12 games (and 16-of-22 and 23-of-32), while New York has gone in the other direction, dropping four of their past 10.

The Yankees are currently out in their personal House of Horrors, Anaheim, while the Sox are in Kansas City, where they still have three more games against the Royals (but face Greinke tonight). Overall, New York has 11 games remaining (two vs. LAA, three vs. BOS, three vs. KC, three at TB), while Boston still has 13 to play, with their final seven games at Fenway (three at KC, three at NYY, three vs. TOR, four vs. CLE).

So, the obvious question is: can the Red Sox catch the Yankees in the next two weeks? While it's still a somewhat lofty goal, it's certainly possible.

Granted, the prospect of the Sox overtaking the Yankees and winning the AL East isn’t likely. If the Yankees merely play .500 the rest of the way, the Red Sox would need to go 12-1 to forge a tie. But if the Sox can start to take advantage of the Royals while the Yanks stumble against the Los Angeles Angels this week, the race would be recast for the final 10 days, starting with a three-game series in the Bronx this weekend.
The Red Sox, as most veteran teams do, are saying the right things, specifically, Mike Lowell: “We’ll know a lot more by Sunday night, and if it’s logical that we (still) have a legit chance (at winning the division), yeah, we should go for it, but in a very intelligent manner.”

And that brings up the other angle to this chase: with the Wild Card all but won, should the Sox even worry about winning the East? All signs point to "yes."

But there would be real value to beating out the Yanks and, by extension, finishing with the league’s best record. Instead of opening on the road against the Angels, the Sox would open at home and meet either the Tigers or Twins, while either the Angels or Yanks were being eliminated. Moreover, the Sox could elect the “spread out” format for the Division Series, meaning they could get as many as four outings combined from Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, their two best starters.

Finally, the prospect of home-field advantage alone could be a powerful motivator. The Sox are a game under .500 on the road (37-38), but they own the best home record in baseball and average more than a run per game more at home (5.9) than on the road (4.8).

It's still somewhat premature, but this weekend's series in the Bronx could decide quite a lot in the 2009 playoffs.

Another wild scenario - Sean McAdam, Boston Herald

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