Last time the Red Sox traveled to New York, they were in fourth place after a pair of ugly losses in Toronto.

The Sox had given up 16 runs in two games and were still trying to get to .500 for the first time all season.

Three nights later, they were there. A sweep of the Yankees was the perfect jump-start to a season that had gotten off on the wrong foot. Boston went into Yankee Stadium, outscored the Yankees 18-9, and returned to Fenway Park with a 20-20 record.

The Sox are 16-6 in the stretch that began with that three-game beatdown of New York.

The series in New York was the start of a seven-game winning streak for Boston, and the true start of the baseball summer in New England.

Now, the Sox are back in New York to start another three-game set. This time, the AL East lead is on the line.

The Yankees tuned up for the Sox with a 6-3 trip to the West Coast, while the Sox got ready for the showdown with a sweep of the Oakland A’s.

Boston now embarks on a three-city, nine-game stretch away from Fenway Park that will see them play exclusively within the division.

It is a very important part of the schedule, beginning with the three in New York then heading to Toronto and Tampa Bay before the Sox return home June 17.

That will begin a 17-day run of inter-league play, a stretch of games against strange National League lineups that will take us to the Fourth of July weekend. By then, we’ll know a lot more about how the AL East race will play out.

Right now, the division is shaping up as expected. The Yankees come into the series with a one-game lead over the Sox, while the Rays are sitting in third.

That’s what many of us expected coming into the season. How these teams got there is a bit surprising.

Boston’s discouraging start has been well documented. The Sox lost the first six games of the season for the first time in 15 years and lost 10 of their first 12 overall.

On April 20, the Sox were five games under .500 and sitting in the AL East cellar. Since that day, they have the best record in the American League.

If the season were to end today, the Yankees and Sox would both be in the playoffs. That’s what most people expected.

What we didn’t expect was the Sox making it to first place faster than any team that started the season 2-10. Ever. It was the quickest turnaround from a 2-10 start to first place in the history of baseball.

Now, the Sox are in second after a .500 homestand. They could be in first before going on to Toronto.

The Sox can also take a commanding lead in the season series against the Yankees. The Red Sox have dominated the Yanks, winning five of six games this season.

Overall, these teams resemble one another pretty closely. They are the two top run-producing teams in the AL, with the Yankees holding a 293-290 edge over the Sox.

They have questions on the back end of their rotation. They each have a starting pitcher who won’t be heard from for awhile, although Phil Hughes should return before Daisuke Matsuzaka.

And they have expectations to deal with.

That’s nothing new for either franchise. Both enter every season as a playoff contender.

What is new is that the Sox had to deal with a first month of the season that put their status as a favorite in doubt.

They’ve turned their season around quickly, in large part because of their last visit to the Bronx.

They could shift the season into overdrive with this trip there.

 

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.