Starting tonight, they meet again. The Red Sox and Yankees will spend the next three nights sizing one another up as they roll into the final month of the season. Once again they are fiercely battling for the division title – the winner of this series will move onto Labor Day weekend in first place.

Does it matter? Barring a major collapse, both will be playing baseball in October. They have run away from the rest of the AL East and any other playoff contenders. The team that’s second will undoubtedly win the wild card. And just making the playoffs is the goal, right?

It’s the goal – but it’s the minimum a contender hopes to accomplish. Both teams set out looking to make the post-season, and both will achieve that. But winning the division should be important to the Red Sox. 

In 2004, the Sox took the wild-card route into the post-season and took us for a ride New England will never forget.

It was a reminder that the team playing its best when the playoff bell rings is the team to beat – no matter how it got to those playoffs. 

It’s still true, but getting in through the wild-card route is a tough way to win it all. In fact, no wild-card team has won it all since those 2004 Red Sox. Not one. The last wild-card team to make it to the Series was the 2007 Colorado Rockies, and the AL East champion Sox made quick work of them. 

This year, winning three series as the AL wild-card entry will be very difficult. That team won’t have home-field advantage in any round of the playoffs thanks to the National League’s win in the All-Star Game.

Winning on the road in the postseason is tougher than ever – in the past two seasons teams with home-field advantage have won 11 of 14 series.

The Red Sox have the best road record in the majors, and have hit more road homers than any other team. On Friday, they returned from a 6-2 road swing that wrapped up with three wins in Texas. Those wins have Sox fans feeling much better about a potential playoff series with the Rangers.

The Sox still have a losing record against the defending AL champs, but have a winning record against other potential first-round opponents.

 While they’re 3-4 against Texas, they are a combined 21-5 against the Yankees, Tigers and Angels. They have shown us that they can play with the best. Home and away.

It’s just a lot to ask for a team – any team – to win three straight series without ever having home-field advantage. And winning this series, against a team they’ve dominated this season, will certainly help the Red Sox avoid that situation.

 

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.