By Jonathan Usher – @madduxman
Coming into this 4 game series with the Yankees over Labor Day weekend, most of us think the Sox are in pretty good position to win the division, which they are – up 5 ½ games with 29 to play. Their remaining schedule after NY looks promising (18 of 25 games vs. sub-.500 teams). Come Monday morning (barring a rainout or cancellation), the Sox will be up one of the following 9 ½, 7 1/2 , 5 ½, 3 ½ or 1 ½ games. Obviously, if they sweep the Evil Empire, you can stick a fork in the Yankees’ division title hopes, and focus on Cleveland for home field advantage, setting up the rotation for the first round of the playoffs, or maybe even overtaking Houston for home field throughout. If the Yankees sweep or go 3-1, then it’s game on – but advantage Sox. A series win basically slams the door on the pinstripes.
However, 3 days ago we weren’t this optimistic. The Sox had lost 4 in a row (getting outscored 36-10) for just the second time all season. The vast majority was concerned to say the least. Even though they had just come off of a 16-4 stretch, it was nearly forgotten because of the pummeling they took at the hands of the Cleveland Indians.
So the main goal of this weekend is to ‘pound the gavel down’ on the division. However, they also do NOT want to wake the beast – Aaron Judge. He nearly single handedly kept them in this race all spring and into the summer, but hit the wall at the All-Star break. Blame the homerun derby, the lack of adjustments by him or whatever. The last thing we need is a Varitek-Arod moment like in ’04 to ignite him and the rest of the Bronx Bombers. Beat them, defeat them, and end this thing this weekend. Because if they get into a bean ball war, or benches start clearing like they did last week, the Judge and the rest of them could ALL RISE.