Columnists, Sports

Between the Lines: The first Red Sox-Yankees series could change the narrative in the AL East

2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton has not lived to up to expectations early in the season as the New York Yankees sport a 5-5 record before their series against the Boston Red Sox. PHOTO COURTESY WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

It’s only nine games into the 2018 season, but the Boston Red Sox sit atop the standings with an MLB-leading 8-1 record.

Despite blowing a four-run lead in the eighth inning to the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day and playing through the cold early-spring weather, the Red Sox have been boosted up by excellent starting pitching and clutch bats to start the season as the hottest team in baseball.

Through the team’s first seven games, the Red Sox’s starting rotation posted a 0.86 ERA thanks to two stellar seven-inning shutouts by David Price and dominant performances from their ace Chris Sale, as he continues a successful run in Boston.

Led by Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, the Red Sox lineup still lacks the power it sought last season after losing David Ortiz, but has hit well in the clutch.

Last week, Hanley Ramírez hit a two-run double with two outs in the 13th inning to beat the Miami Marlins, and two days later he walked it off with a bases-loaded bloop single to beat Tampa Bay in the 12th inning. Then on Sunday, Boston rallied past the Rays again by scoring six runs in the eighth inning to keep the winning streak alive.

While all is well in Beantown, the Bronx Bombers are struggling to prove they are the class of the AL East and will dethrone the back-to-back division champion Red Sox.

The New York Yankees did its best at creating a baseball super team this offseason by acquiring 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton to pair with Aaron Judge and a cast of other young stars in the making.

However, the Yankees currently sit at 5-5 after dropping three games of four to the Baltimore Orioles and have not played up to their lofty preseason expectations.

Their pitching staff has struggled, allowing 12 homers and 42 runs while being backed up by a defense that has given up 10 errors in as many games. The bullpen that many believed was one of the best in baseball has quickly unraveled and not even their big bats can stop the bleeding.

Stanton is the first player in the live ball era with no hits and five strikeouts over two games in the same season, and he also has 20 strikeouts on the season. Add in Judge’s 13 K’s and Gary Sanchez’s .063 batting average, and it is easy to see why the Evil Empire has yet to show their dominance.

With the Red Sox riding the first 8-1 start in franchise history and the Yankees trying to work through a cold start to the season, Aaron Boone will lead his team into Fenway Park Tuesday night for a three-game series. It is the perfect time to start overreacting about the Red Sox and Yankees this season.

You will be able to cut the tension with a knife at Fenway this week as this series could change the AL East conversation for the rest of the season.

Entering the year, the Yankees were heavy favorites to win the division, and many questioned the Red Sox after last season’s quick playoff exit. Even though it seems the narrative is shifting in the Red Sox’s favor early on, we have to remember there are 162 games.

The primary reason that the Red Sox look like a World Series contender through nine games is that they have been against the Rays and Marlins. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, those teams are not very good. Actually, after watching both teams play, they look more like teams comprised of minor leaguers and washed-up veterans than real MLB teams.

That being said, Boston did not play particularly well against either team. Five were one-run games, two went into extra innings and one took a huge, late comeback where Rays’ closer Alex Colome blew his second of three save opportunities this season. So Red Sox fans, as exciting as this hot start is, let’s pump the brakes a bit.

And while the Yankees schedule hasn’t necessarily put them through the ringer, it’s hard to believe their struggles will continue throughout the season.

As Stanton said following Sunday’s game, “The season’s much longer than a week.”

Players like Stanton and Judge can get hot at any moment. The team has also suffered a slew of injuries across the roster. Aaron Hicks, CC Sabathia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier and Greg Bird are all on the disabled list, and Tyler Wade and Sanchez missed games this weekend, but likely won’t miss extended time.

Instead of worrying about Stanton, Judge or Sanchez, fans should focus their attention on thanking Didi Gregorius for single-handedly keeping New York at .500 as he leads the team in every offensive category imaginable, provides a sure hand at shortstop and has helped them lead the AL East in scoring thus far. So Yankees fans, maybe don’t boo your $325 million man just yet — the season is much longer than a week.

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