Did that really happen?
I'm serious. Did the Yanks actually take all five games against the Red Sox, at Fenway? After a week in which they had serious trouble putting the Orioles away?
We'll get back to this in a moment. Here's the Week in Review:
Record for the Week: 6-2 (45 RA, 64 RS)
Overall: 74-48, 1st place, 5.5 games ahead of the Red Sox
Player of the Week: Johnny Damon hit .390/.405/.878, with 4 homers, 12 RBI, and 10 extra base hits. By Friday, he was already the player of the week. Not that he didn't have competition, installed as the #3 batter, Bobby Abreu had a .483/.615/.621 week. I repeat: he was on base 61% of the time, over eight games. Jason Giambi hit .318/.514/.727, heavily weighted by the 2 homers he hit in last night's game. Honorable Mentions to Jorge Posada (.308/.379/.654) and Melky Cabrera (.419/.486/.516); the week also featured strong bullpen work by Scott Proctor (7 scoreless IP) and Mariano Rivera (1 run in 5 IP).
Dregs of the Week: Not much, this time out. Craig Wilson hit .222/.300/.222 in limited playing time (18 AB) but that's hardly fatal. Closer to poisonous was Sidney Ponson's swan song in pinstripes (7 runs in 3 IP), which earned him a DFA. He's the dregs. Dishonorable mention goes to Octavio Dotel, still looking hurt and giving up 3 runs in 1 inning of work. Ron Villone is showing some signs of overwork (he leads the Yanks in relief innings and appearances since the All-Star Break). He allowed 6 runs in 6 IP on the week.
Story of the Week: Let's put this in context. The Yanks have been playing baseball for two weeks without a day off, and still have another six days to go--a West Coast trip, no less--before they get a day of rest. Coming into Fenway, the stretch wasn't going well at all--dropped two out of three in Chicago, split four with the Angels and lost two out of three against the Orioles at home. The crucible moment of the August marathon was going to be the five-game set at Fenway--a bullpen-weary team having to play five games in four days against their archrivals at their house, with the AL East lead slipping away.
Forget the Red Sox, it looked like the Yanks were going down by force of attrition, alone.
But then it all turned around. The series opener was a blowout. The nightcap of the doubleheader was a tough, grind-it-out ugly win. Then the Red Sox were in Saturday's game for five innings, the game tied at five. Then in the sixth inning, starter Josh Beckett--the Yankee-Slayer--spit the bit, and the Yanks put up a five-spot, won the game going away. Sunday night, the Yankee offense finally seemed spent, and the Red Sox led 5-3 after seven innings. The only Yankee runs came on a three-run jack by Giambi.
I won't go too far into it--the game is my Game of the Week for Prospectus--but the Red Sox decided not to extend their closer for six outs. They were worried about Monday's game, when they might need Jon Papelbon. As the saying goes--win today; tomorrow, it might rain. The Red Sox wound up extending their closer anyway, and losing, 8-5, in extra innings.
Now, today (the game doesn't count as last week, for the sake of consistency, but it sure is part of the story here) the Yankees come up on top of a squeaker, a pitching duel, 2-1. And now the Sox are six and a half games back, and pretty far behind the Wild Card leaders, too.
It's important not to get too excited. The Bombers have left the Bostons for dead, before, as you'll recall. But a five game sweep is never bad news. Not if you're the one with the broom, anyway.