Posted on August 6, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine

Boston Red Sox

Image via usatoday.com

The division race that all of baseball couldn’t wait to watch unfold may be all but over in the first week of August. The Boston Red Sox completed a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees Sunday night. The two teams began the series Thursday separated by 5.5 games. However, the Red Sox have now extended their lead to 9.5 games, a seemingly insurmountable margin for the Yankees to overcome. This series was supposed to be New York’s way to close the gap in the AL East. Instead, it has all but won the division for Boston, relegating the Yankees to the wild-card race.

Sunday’s loss was no doubt the most deflating for the Yankees. They entered the 9th inning with a 4-1 lead, poised to salvage the final game of the series and avoid the sweep. But closer Aroldis Chapman couldn’t finish off the Red Sox. He gave up three runs in the 9th to force extra innings. The Red Sox then scored on a walk-off single from Andrew Benintendi in the 10th to complete the sweep in dramatic fashion.

With the lead at 9.5 games and the Red Sox projected to win well over 100 games, the AL East appears to be all but decided. If the Red Sox maintain their current pace, the Yankees would need to win 46 of their 52 remaining games to finish ahead of them. Meanwhile, with five straight losses, New York’s hold over the top spot in the wild-card standings is down to just 2.5 games over Oakland.

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The standings paint a bleak picture for the Yankees. But Yankees manager Aaron Boone still believes his team has a chance to make things interesting.

“It’s a tough way, obviously, to end a tough weekend, but we can’t let this define what’s been a great season for us,” Boone said after Sunday’s game. “We’ve got to go out and just start playing well, start playing a more consistent brand of baseball, and trust the results will be there.”

To be fair, the Yankees are playing a little short-handed right now. Aaron Judge remains on the DL, as does Gary Sanchez. The Yankees also reorganized their rotation just before the start of the series with Sonny Gray being moved to the bullpen. It also didn’t help that J.A. Happ was unavailable for the series in Boston because of hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Despite the missing pieces, the standings still say the Yankees are 9.5 games back. That much of a deficit to a team like the Red Sox would seem to be an impossible mountain to climb. However, Boone is hopeful that getting swept can turn into a rallying point for the Yankees.

“This is a weekend we’ll look back on and hopefully be able to say, ‘This is one that brought us together and allowed us to really grow even more as a club,'” an optimistic Boone said Sunday.

For the Yankees, all is not lost. As long as they hold onto the wild card, they’ll give themselves a chance at postseason baseball. But after getting swept over the weekend, that’s more of a best-case scenario than a fallback option. With a 9.5-game lead, the Red Sox are officially running away with the AL East.

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