This past Tuesday night, June 6, the Red Sox opened a three game series against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, New York.  The Yankees, who were in first place, had surprised the baseball world with a 32-22 start, in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, and led the second place Red Sox by two games going into the series.

I had heard a talk show host, earlier in the week, bemoaning the fact that the Yankee Red Sox rivalry was not what it used to be and, as a Yankee fan, living in a house with one of the most rabid Red Sox fans I know, I had a hard time agreeing with him.  

At least in my house, the Yankee/Red Sox rivalry is alive and well. The talk show host apparently hadn’t looked at the two teams’ history over the first 17 years of the 21st century.

My copy of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines rival as “to be in competition with” and “to have qualities that approach or equal another’s.” 

With Red Sox Nation expecting their team to win three and take over first place in the American League East and Yankee fans confident that their surprising powerhouse would put the Sox in their place, there was reason to believe that, at least for the fans, the rivalry was alive and well.

Since it was June 6 when this past week’s series started, I decided to take a look at the two teams’ records on June 6 for the past seventeen years.  On June 6, 2000, the start of the new century, the Red Sox and Yankees were tied for first place. From 2001 through 2004, on that date, the Sox and Yankees were 1-2 in the East.

The Yankees went all the way and won the World Series in 2000 and the Sox did the same in 2004. In 2006, the Yankees were in first, 2½ games ahead of the second place Red Sox on June 6 and, in 2009, the Red Sox were in first, ½ game ahead of the second place Yankees who would eventually win the World Series.

In 2011, the year of the Red Sox September Swoon, when they lost 20 of their last 27 games to blow their shot at the pennant, the Sox were in second on June 6, one game behind the first place Yankees. Again, in 2013, the Red Sox were in first, 1½ ahead of the second place Yankees on June 6 and, of course, the Sox went on to win their third World Series of the century.

For the next three years, the competition cooled as the Yankees were in second and the Sox in fourth on June 6, 2014, the Yankees in first and the Sox in fourth in 2015 and the Sox in second and the Yankees in fourth in 2016.

2017 is the 10th time in the 18 years of this century in which the Yankees and Red Sox have been 1-2 in the Division on June 6. 

Of the first 17 years of the century, they have won five World Series titles between them.  Since 2000, either the Yankees or the Red Sox, or both, have been in the playoffs every year except 2014 and they have both been in the Playoffs five times in the seventeen years.

In that 17-year period, the Yankees have been in the Playoffs 13 times and the Red Sox seven. Either the Red Sox or the Yankees have represented the American League in the World Series in seven of the seventeen years with the Sox winning all three of their appearances and the Yankees winning two and losing two in four appearances.

 

In that 17-year period, ending in 2016, the Yankees and Red Sox had played each other 310 games. The Yankees had won 162 times and the Red Sox 148. The Yankees had scored 1,584 runs and the Red Sox 1,536, an average score of 5.11 to 4.95.

Remarkably, for the ten year period from 2004 until 2013, of 184 games played, the Red Sox won 93 and the Yankees 91 and the Red Sox outscored the Yankees 1,012-978. You can’t get much closer to ‘qualities that approach or equal another’s’ than that.

On June 6, 1941, 76 years ago, the Red Sox were in third place in the eight team American League, three games behind the first place Cleveland Indians and the Yankees were in fourth, four back. The Yankees and Red Sox would finish one two that year as well with the Yankees winning the pennant with a 101-53 record, 17 games ahead of the second  place Red Sox.

The Sox beat the Chicago White Sox in Comiskey Park in Chicago that day, 6-3, as Ted Williams went 2-for-4 with a double and a homer for the Sox. At the end of the day, Ted was hitting a phenomenal .436 and was en route to a final .406 average, the last player to hit .400 in baseball history, to date, and probably forever. Not only did he hit .406, he led the league in homers with 37, slugging percentage with .735 and on base percentage with .553, the third highest in baseball history. His career on base percentage of .481 is the highest in baseball history.

The Yankees were off on June 6, but had lost to the Detroit Tigers in Detroit the day before. The Yankees star, Joe DiMaggio, went one for five that day, extending his consecutive game hitting streak to 21 games. The streak, as almost everybody knows, would reach 56 games and set another record that will probably never be broken. Joe hit .357 that year with 30 homers and 125 RBI’s.

The Yankee Clipper would win the Most Valuable Player award that year, edging out the Splendid Splinter, 291-254 votes. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series in five games over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

So, it was not uncommon for the Yankees and Red Sox to be 1-2 on June 6 and, even though it was early in the season for a ‘crucial’ series between the two, excitement was high, especially in New England. 

Of course, the Yankees, after Tanaka imploded in Game 1 and gave up five runs, including three homers, in the first five innings, allowing the Sox to squeak out a 5-4 victory, completely shut down the Red Sox bats in the final two games and ended up gaining a game on the Sox to go three up after the series.

After the Sox scored five runs in the first five innings, for the last 22 innings of the series, they could manage just one unearned run. It seems that, every so often, the Red Sox usually powerful offense goes dormant. In this case, they went 15-95 in the series, getting just 10 hits and one unearned run over the last 22 innings. Of course, a lot of credit has to go to the aging C.C. Sabathia and Michael Pineda for their performance, but the fact is that  the Sox got just 9 hits in 62 at bats in Games 2 and 3. In Game 3, two of their only four hits were infield hits and one was a bunt against the shift.

 

The Yankees won this series, but there are still over 100 games to play and the Sox and Yankees will meet 14 more times this season, so as Yogi Berra once said “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

As I said in this space a couple of weeks ago, the Yankees Achilles heel may be their starting pitching. Through 57 games they have used just five starters and that’s a long time to have five pitchers healthy and ready to go. Sooner or later, their luck has to run out.

It would also help if Chili Davis could figure out why the Red Sox offense disappears every so often.

In the meantime, the Sox have to stay close to their rivals. 132,090 fans watched the three game series in New York. The rivalry that existed in 1941 is alive and well today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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