This weekend’s Red Sox-Yankees series is not the typical mid-August series between the two teams. The Yankees have made the playoffs in each of the past three years and 17 of the last 18, but currently are close to trailing the Sox by double-digits for the AL East lead and are one of four teams within five games of the final Wild Card spot.
Their playoff run might just be coming to an end, and that isn’t even the biggest story surrounding the team.
The biggest story may be taking place off the field as third baseman Alex Rodriguez is back with the team after making his season debut Aug. 5 (hip injury), ironically the same day he was suspended 214 games under terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rodriguez was one of 13 players suspended, as everyone else took their suspensions, while Rodriguez decided to appeal, even with reportedly substantial evidence found against him.
His appeal will likely not be heard until after the season, so he will be able to play the remainder of the year. Rodriguez is currently 38-years-old, so even if he gets his suspension reduced to one full season, he would return to the game in a year in which he turns 40.
Not many third baseman continue to produce at that age, and who knows what will happen between now and then, so this series could be one of the last chances Red Sox fans will get to see Rodriguez as the Yankees play only one more series at Fenway this year beginning Sept. 13.
On the field, this is a big series for the Red Sox as they return home from a subpar, season-long 10-game road trip. The Sox have a chance to virtually put away the Yankees in the AL East and also build momentum for their West Coast trip next week with stops in San Francisco as well as Los Angeles against the Giants and Dodgers. This might be harder than first thought at the Yankees are playing some of their best baseball of late, especially offensively as they had games of scoring 11 and 14 runs against the Angels this week.
It will be a good test for the Red Sox pitchers as all three starters in the series are looking to prove themselves worthy of being in the playoff rotation. Felix Doubront will start Friday, followed by John Lackey Saturday and Ryan Dempster in the finale Sunday night. Fenway Park has been kind to the Sox this year, as they have posted a 39-21 mark, one of the best home records in all of the American League. Red Sox pitching also has performed better at home with a 3.68 ERA at
Fenway, compared to 4.03 on the road (as of Wednesday).
A quick glance at the standings would say this series isn’t all that important for the Red Sox, but that is not the case. With a sweep the Yankees would put themselves right back in the division race and then with the upcoming West Coast trip, a poor week to ten day stretch could have the Red Sox finding themselves no longer at the top of the AL East and no longer a lock to make the postseason.
Follow Metro Red Sox beat writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @hannable84