I'm not really a pessimist, as one might guess from my recent posts about the strength of our healthy and improved rotation. I don't think the Yankees are as bad as they played during that disastrous stretch that included 5 out of 6 losses to Boston. The recent successes have proved that much.
The problem is, today's loss coupled with Boston's win put us 7 games back in the AL East. The Central figures to produce the Wild Card with both Cleveland and Detroit ahead of the Yankees by 4.5 and 5 games, respectively. Certainly 4.5 games is not tough to imagine given the lineup and healthy pitchers we have now. Right now the other teams chasing Cleveland in the WC are either at .500 or only one game over. We're right there with the rest of the pack.
Is the division over? 7 games with 12 remaining head to head with the Red Sox. Doable, but how likely is it that we can win the required 10 out of 12 to take the lead? 9 out of 12 puts us one back. The Sox rotation looks dominant right now, so it's hard to imagine that anything but an injury or injuries will derail them. It's early, so this may look a little silly, but here's what each team would have to do under several head to head situations for the Yankees to come out as division winners, assuming the Red Sox play :
Yankees win 9-3 against the Red Sox the in their remaining 12 matchups
Red Sox (84-44)
Yankees (83-46)- .643 win%
Yankees split 6-6
Red Sox (87-41)
Yankees (95-34)- .736 win%
Yankees lose 3-9
Red Sox (90-38)
Yankees (104-25)- .806 win%
This all depends on the Red Sox continuing their scorching pace against the rest of the league, which may or may not happen. If they do, they will come close to the all time record for wins in a regular season. At any rate, even a slight slow down would make it difficult for the Yankees if we lose the remaining season series with the Beantown Boys. Looking at the win% numbers that the Yankees would have to post over the remaining 129 games, it becomes apparent that the 12 Red Sox games are our playoffs this year. They carry that much significance. A split with the Sox would almost certainly mean the Red Sox would have to slow to 90 win pace (a .558 win% over the remaining 129) while we win at 100 win pace (.617) the rest of the year. Possible, yes. Difficult? Most certainly.
Losing the remaining 12 game "series" with the Sox means a wild card hunt for the Yankees in all likelihood. That's something much easier to accomplish, but hardly guaranteed with the Tigers and Indians fielding very good ballclubs this season. We've dug a healthy hole for ourselves, and it's time to start sweating a bit. All I can say is, "Beat the Red Sox". If we do, we have a great chance. If we don't, we may match the fate that we dealt Boston in that late season 4 game sweep last year. Turnabout is fair play, and revenge is a dish best served cold. Let's go fellas. It's winning time, or it's dying time. It's getting late, early. And all the rest of the appropriate cliches.....
NOTE: I did all this math very quickly and haphazardly. It may be off in a few places, but it's close. The point is still the same....
UPDATE: Steve at Was Watching built on my post to make a more comprehensive look at this situation. Give it a read. I posted the following comment over there, and I think it's worth re-posting as an addendum to this COH tidbit.
"Let's assume we can make up 2 games in the standings on the Sox before we play them next. 5 games back entering the matchup at Fenway.
If we throw Clemens, Pettitte, and Moose at the Red Sox and earn a sweep (somehow), we'd be 2 games back with June, July, August, and September to play. What a difference that would make. Everything would be back in order.
If we lose more ground, let's say the same 2 games, and then lose that series, we'd be looking at a 10-11 game deficit and probably the end of the AL East hopes. In the first week of June.
You could argue that the next 3 weeks are the AL East stretch run, and the next meeting is the opening round of the AL playoffs. It got late early."