Only six weeks remain in the regular season. But the match race between the Red Sox and Yankees is just getting started.
Boston returns home today for three games packed into two days against the Rays. Leading Tampa Bay by nine games with 43 to play, today’s doubleheader and tomorrow’s matinee offer the Sox a chance to virtually guarantee both themselves and New York a spot in the 2011 postseason.
But the difference between first and second place — which stood at just a half-game in favor of Boston entering last night — could hardly be more significant. With the AL East winner likely to have the league’s best record, it is the difference between playing the first two rounds of the playoffs with or without home-field.
As of today, both teams have 43 games remaining. They play head-to-head just six more times — three at Fenway starting Aug. 30 and three in New York from Sept. 23-25.
Of their other remaining 37 games, the Sox play 23 against the division. Their other 14 come against AL West-leading Texas (seven), Kansas City (four) and Oakland (three).
Only 14 of their final 43 come against teams with losing records.
The Yankees have an easier road, playing 21 of their final 43 games against sub-.500 teams, including 14 in a row between tonight and Aug. 30.