The Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Angels on July 5 to improve their record to 54-32. This was a Boston team that was anticipated to languish in self-inflicted mediocrity, but it was suddenly four-and-a-half games ahead of the Rays in second place and 10.5 games ahead of the devastated New York Yankees in fourth place.
The Yankees’ reversal of the Red Sox’s fortunes
Over the previous month, the Red Sox had swept the Yankees twice, once in Boston and once in the Bronx. A story was quickly gaining traction during a season in which the San Francisco Giants were pulling off a similar, if not more astonishing, trick. Chaim Bloom, a former Rays executive, had put together an overachieving band of bargain bin finds that had outflanked the Yankees’ army of high-priced tanks. The victory over the Angels was typical of the 2021 Red Sox up to that date. Castoff from multiple teams Rafael Devers’ spectacular day was topped off by Christian Arroyo’s home run. Martin Perez, a journeyman pitcher, won the win after allowing just two runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings. For the surging Red Sox and the stumbling Yankees, a common question lingered: How is this happening?
Six weeks later, both the gap and the story had vanished. The Yankees are a percentage point ahead of the Red Sox for second place in the AL East and the second wild-card slot after sweeping a doubleheader Tuesday. The virtual tie will be broken by the series finale in New York on Wednesday night. A two-season story has already concluded, and a third act will determine the final thoughts of how the rivals performed in 2021.
How the Yankees flipped the script on the Red Sox
The Yankees’ health track record was immediately recognizable as a weakness before to the season. Several crucial cogs in their lineup, as well as a portion of their starting rotation, had battled to stay on the field. And it’s safe to say that this contributed to their slow first half. According to Baseball Prospectus, the Yankees have lost the third-most expected production of any team this season due to injuries (behind only the Dodgers and Mets). Long-term absences for first baseman Luke Voit and outfielders Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier prompted them to start players they had projected as minor-league depth or waiver wire fodder, including as Greg Allen, Chris Gittens, Estevan Florial, Ryan LaMarre, and Jonathan Davis. Trey Amburgey, another emergency outfield possibility who is really a real guy, didn’t make it through two whole games before getting hurt as well. Injuries and offensive underperformance spread like a disease throughout the club.
At BetMGM, the preseason AL favorites had slumped to +2000 long bets to win the World Series at the All-Star break. Brian Cashman’s big trade deadline revamp was arguably prompted by this desperation. The addition of Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo, who is presently recovering from a COVID-19 infection, provides them a lot of options at first base and in the outfield. Meanwhile, Bloom and the Red Sox employed a trade deadline approach that could be described as resting on their laurels, content to keep playing with house money. They sought to fill a huge hole at first base by acquiring Kyle Schwarber from the Nationals, with the intention of teaching him the position. They did not take any steps to complement a starting rotation that had a MacGyver vibe about it and had been unraveling since the sticky substance crackdown in June. There was no doubt that the Yankees had more talent on the roster following the trade deadline. The only concern was whether it will manifest in the rankings in time.
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