With the Red Sox having taken the first two games of this weekend's series in the Bronx, a certain doomsday scenario has crept into the minds of Yankee fans. What if the Red Sox sweep past the Yankees, claim the Wild Card spot, and the Yankees find themselves eliminated during the regular season for the second time in three years?
Well, it's not bloody likely. The Red Sox are 5 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the Wild Card chase with eight games left to play (four against the Yankees, four in Chicago against the White Sox). They are five games back in the loss column with just four head-to-head games remaining, and the Yankees' magic number to clinch a playoff berth is three. Consider these scenarios.
• The Red Sox could win all of their remaining eight games, but if the Yankees sweep the Blue Jays in their three game set in Toronto this week, Boston will still be eliminated.
• The Yankees could lose all of their remaining seven games, but if the Red Sox lose three of four in Chicago, Boston will still be eliminated.
• If the Red Sox sweep the Yankees in the remaining four head-to-head games, but the Yankees manage to pull out just one win in Toronto, the Red Sox would have to win three of four in Chicago to clinch a tie.
• If the Yankees win just one of their remaining four games against the Red Sox, they'll clinch a tie with the Red Sox, and Boston would have to sweep the White Sox and have the Blue Jays sweep the Yankees in three games in Toronto in order for that tie to come about.
That last is the one that should give Yankee fans the most confidence. The Yankees seem sure to pull out at least one win against the Sox in these remaining six games, and doing just that would effectively ice the Wild Card as the Sox would have to win out and win a tie-breaker while the Yankees would have to lose every other game they played this season for Boston to leap-frog them into the playoffs. I'm not saying it absolutely won't happen, but it takes a powerful pesimism to think it will.
(photo via the outstanding Virtual Card Collection)