By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
It wasn’t supposed to be this easy.
The Red Sox open up a three-game series with the Yankees in the Bronx Tuesday, needing just a single win to clinch the American League East.
Some predicted the Red Sox would win the division, others had the Yankees winning the AL East, but nobody had either team clinching this early. The Red Sox are about to take it in a runaway, and they fully deserve the division crown.
The race has been over since the Sox swept the Yankees away in early August at Fenway, extending their lead to 9.5 games with just over 50 games to play. There was no looking back from that point on.
There would be no repeat of 1978, no 14-game lead in the summer squandered on the doorstep of autumn, no stories for old-timers to tell as a cautionary tale to the next generations. Those days of epic Red Sox collapses at the hands of the Yankees are a thing of the past.
There will be no dramatic final series between the two teams at Fenway Park in 10 days. There will be no need for Game 162 or even Game 163 to determine the division winner. Instead, the Red Sox have positioned themselves to celebrate on Steinbrenner’s lawn (with a win, this time).
When the Sox win the division, it will be time to give credit where credit it due. They will have dusted a Yankees team that, despite their many flaws and shortcomings, will likely come to close to 100 wins.
But the Yankees were nowhere near as good as the Red Sox this season.
The difference between first year managers Alex Cora and Aaron Boone has been striking. Cora has undeniably gotten the most out of his club, while Boone has been rightfully criticized for his team’s tendency to play down to poor competition at times, their bad fundamentals, and his lack of accountability.
Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to take the American League by storm, but it was J.D. Martinez, widely considered the consolation prize for the Red Sox this past offseason, who has delivered a triple-crown worthy season.
The Red Sox barely skipped a beat without their Cy Young contender, Chris Sale, who missed much of August and part of September with shoulder inflammation. The Yankees saw their ace and once-Cy Young candidate, Luis Severino, implode in the second half with a 6.35 ERA.
The Red Sox have never won three-straight division crowns, but that should change in the Bronx over the next few days when they pick up a win against the team that was supposed to battle them tooth-and-nail to the end.
It was supposed to be a great race.