The New York Yankees appeared to be in the midst of a full-fledged letdown yesterday. They fell behind the Boston Red Sox by five runs after losing the series opener the night before, and looked as though they were trying to keep hope alive in Baltimore.
Instead, they staged a comeback that the big-inning Orioles would have been proud of and salvaged a 12-11 victory in extra innings that carried them a giant step closer to the American League East title.
Why was yesterday's win so important? Because it effectively ended any real hope of the Red Sox staging a dramatic Mariners-like comeback during the final days of the season. They fell eight games behind the Yankees with eight to go, six of them head-to-head with the division leaders. Boston still can compete for the AL wild-card berth, but the discouraging loss left them four behind the Orioles with the clock running down.
That might not seem insurmountable -- especially with head-to-head games against the Orioles on Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway Park -- but they also have to get past the White Sox and the streaking Mariners.
Seattle plays all the rest of its games against the floundering Oakland Athletics and California Angels, while the Red Sox play all of theirs against the Yankees and Orioles. Just doesn't seem fair, does it?
Factor in how deflating yesterday's loss had to be and it might be time to stick a fork in the defending division champions, who made a valiant effort to recover from their 6-19 start and salvage some excitement for their fans.
"I'd rather get beat 25-1 than lose like this," Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn said afterward.
The victory cut the Yankees' magic number to five and put them in position to clinch the division before they go to Boston for a season-ending four-game series.
How the West is being won
The San Diego Padres, who lost to the Dodgers, 9-2, yesterday find themselves in an urgent situation today, needing to split their four-game series with Los Angeles to keep from falling 2 1/2 games back with just five games left to play.
No doubting Thomas, but
The White Sox' Frank Thomas reached 40 homers for the third time in his career as Chicago beat Minnesota, 4-3, yesterday, but he came up empty with two runners on in a situation that might have kept his club moving forward in the AL wild-card race. Instead, the White Sox lost for the fourth time in the last six games and stand three games behind the Orioles.
Though the struggling Texas Rangers beat California, 7-1, last night, Seattle followed suit against Oakland, 9-2, and the Mariners remained one game out of first in the AL West and a half-game behind the Orioles for the wild card.
The Rangers probably didn't consider the wild-card race relevant until the past few days, but would have entered yesterday's games in a virtual tie with the Orioles if they were not still clinging to the thin AL West advantage.
Down the stretch
Day ..... O's ..... NY ..... Chi ..... Sea
9/22 .... Tor ..... Bos* ... Min ..... Oak
9/23 .... Mil ........................ Cal
9/24 .... Bos ..... Mil .... KC ...... Cal
9/25 .... Bos ..... Mil .... KC ...... Cal
9/26 .... Tor ..... Bos .............. Oak
9/27 .... Tor ..... Bos .... Min ..... Oak
9/28 .... Tor ..... Bos .... Min ..... Oak
9/29 .... Tor ..... Bos .... Min ..... Oak
9/30 ................................. Cle#
Home games in bold
#-makeup, if necessary
Pub Date: 9/22/96