Perfect Sox storm?
They’re rested, Yankees aren’t
Getting two games in Saturday and winning both put the Red Sox in an advantageous position in the American League East relative to the Yankees, who have a busy schedule the rest of the way, including West Coast travel and makeup games.
Although the Sox have had their share of bad travel and long nights, they emerged from Hurricane Irene with yesterday and today off, a break that players and manager Terry Francona called the perfect storm.
“This is great,’’ said designated hitter David Ortiz. “Our guys need the rest. We’ve been going like crazy around here and guys are tired and this is going to give us a little bit of a break physically, so we can get our energy ready to go the rest of the way. We’ve got the Yankees coming in and that’s always going to be a tough series and very intense for everybody. So we’re going to be rested for that.’’
The Yankees, who will be at Fenway for a three-game set starting tomorrow night? Not so much. They split a doubleheader with the Orioles yesterday, and have to play tonight in Baltimore before heading to Boston.
They lost Game 1 yesterday (their fourth defeat in five games), and Derek Jeter, playing in his 2,402d game with New York, breaking a tie with Mickey Mantle for most in a Yankees uniform, fouled a ball off his knee and was a late scratch for Game 2.
The Yankees also were boiling mad over the rescheduling of one of their postponed doubleheader games Saturday. They now must travel to Baltimore Sept. 8 for a makeup game. The Yankees claimed they hadn’t gone along with the date, which was approved by the Orioles and Major League Baseball.
Yankees player representative Curtis Granderson said the team will fight, with the help of the Players Association, to have the date changed.
The Yankees are angry that there wasn’t a doubleheader played Friday and also that they weren’t part of the discussion on rescheduling.
The Yankees now will have only one day off the rest of the way, on Sept. 15 after a six-game swing in Los Angeles and Seattle. The break will be in Toronto after a long flight from the coast. By the way, that West Coast swing comes the day after the Sept. 8 makeup in Baltimore.
The Yankees also end their season on the road against Tampa Bay after a three-game series against the Sox.
The Sox do not have any West Coast travel remaining, they stay on the East Coast, and they have offdays Sept. 12 and 22. The only downer is having to end the season with six road games, at New York and Baltimore. But next to the Yankees’, their remaining schedule is less stressful.
One could make the case that schedule and travel issues are overrated, and they often are. Baseball travel is better even than first class for the average Joe, where everything is taken care of for you. Hotel accommodations are first class. Players do not want for any convenience, and of course, they can always sleep on the plane.
It seems there have been more scheduling and travel complaints this year than ever. Part of the problem is that the Sox have played a lot of Sunday night games, and another issue is that they don’t have many day getaway games at Fenway. Sometimes we think this is confined to the Red Sox because we hear so much about them getting in at 5 in the morning and then having to play that night, but other teams have had scheduling issues as well.
These matters are getting tougher to resolve, too, between national TV rights, which call for teams to play at certain times, local TV considerations, Players Association approval on travel matters, etc.
“It’s become almost impossible to please everybody,’’ said one MLB official. “Everybody thinks there’s an easy solution, but there isn’t. In fact, it gets more complex every year.’’
Sometimes teams rally around these circumstances and make it a source of pride that they can overcome them. Others use it as an excuse. The Yankees are certainly used to distractions, so if any team is able to get over it, it will be them.
The Sox are now sitting pretty, and there should be no excuses about travel and scheduling the rest of the way.
They have to hold their own at home against the Yankees, but they’ve also been able to set up their pitching the way they want. Their top four starters - Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Erik Bedard - are on pretty normal rest, and what’s left is to figure out who they might plug in as a fifth starter, Tim Wakefield or Andrew Miller. With September call-ups, the Sox also will be able to monitor the workload of relievers such as Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon, while also trying to get a read on whether Clay Buchholz and Bobby Jenks can help them late in the season and into the playoffs.
The days off give the lineup a chance to rest.
Ortiz said he felt some soreness in his right heel in both ends of the doubleheader Saturday; he recently missed about a week with bursitis. The Sox also have Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew coming back from disabled list stints, and both should be ready after Sept. 1.
“We’re going to use this to our advantage,’’ Francona said. They should.
The Sox hold a 10-2 advantage over the Yankees this season, so the Yankees have every incentive to want to beat them in their home ballpark and to prove to themselves that they can beat the Sox if they should have to face them in the American League Championship Series.
The Sox have established that they can beat New York’s ace, CC Sabathia, while the Yankees have shown the inability to beat Boston’s ace, Josh Beckett. But this is the time of year when all of those numbers and trends easily can go out the window.
“It’s what happens from here on out that’s more important,’’ said Ortiz. “It’s like players who make the All-Star team. How many of them disappear the second half of the year after that game? So what if you made the All-Star team if you [expletive] in August and September? And you have to be like that as a team, too.
“This is the time you need to win games because it’s the tough time of the year. The good teams win at the tough times when your body isn’t feeling that great and when the whole season is catching up to you. But you have to find something to get you through it and come through for your team. Those are the players and the teams that will be in the playoffs.’’
If the Yankees are to oust Boston from first place, they’ll have to do what Ortiz is suggesting.
Despite their weary state, they will have to dig down deep.
Right now, advantage Red Sox.