The Yankees, who are chasing down a playoff spot, rested several of their regulars against the Red Sox on Saturday night. That’s not something you’d normally expect when the two old rivals meet late in the season.
But then, it’s not much of a rivalry these days.
The lineup the Yankees stitched together beat the Red Sox, 8-0, because of course they did. The Yankees have won all nine meetings between the teams this season and 12 in a row dating back to 2019.
That’s the longest streak in the series since the Yankees won 12 straight from 1952-53.
Rivals? Maybe that’s a word that should be suspended for a while until the Sox earn it back. They’ve 5-23 against the Yankees the last two seasons and have been outscored by 58 runs.
New York has averaged seven runs in those games. That’s not a rivalry, that’s giving up your lunch money before the bully asks for it.
“Late last year when we got really rolling we had a couple of really good series against them,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “It was a time they were starting to struggle a little bit. It’s a little bit of an aberration. You get a couple of series where they’re down and we’re really rolling.”
"This year they’ve obviously had their struggles and dealing with some guys not being on their roster. Losing Mookie [Betts] and [Chris] Sale and Eduardo Rodriguez being down, it’s been a tough year. Probably a little bit more fluky that it’s been this lopsided.
“I’ve been in so many heavyweight bouts with [the Red Sox] as a player and now as a manager. You know you’re always going to have your hands full.”
Boone, whose late grandfather, Ray, was a long-time Red Sox scout, was being diplomatic.
The Red Sox are headed for their fourth last-place finish in nine seasons. They’ve become a team of extreme highs and lows.
The Yankees haven’t finished with a losing record since 1992 and this year will be the 22nd time in 26 years they’ll play in the postseason. They’re mastered the art of consistent competitiveness, building a farm system that churns out players and using their financial might to pick off free agents when needed.
The Yankees have made some mistakes along the way — signing Jacoby Ellsbury being one. But their mistakes don’t lead to total collapses.
The Yankees haven’t won the World Series since 2009 and the Red Sox have two championships since. But both of those titles were followed by disarray.
The Red Sox are hoping Chaim Bloom can build an organization that will compete for a title every season. For now, they’re a team the Yankees have brushed aside.
Sox manager Ron Roenicke was asked how tough it was to go through a stretch like that against the Yankees.
“Streaks and stuff, they don’t matter to me,” he said after Friday’s 6-5 loss in 12 innings. “We played a really good ballgame, we had plenty of chances to win. The steaks, I don’t really even look at.”
But Roenicke has been with the Sox long enough to understand what games against the Yankees mean, or should mean. The powerhouse 2018 Sox were 10-9 against the Yankees in the regular season before the teams split the first two games of the Division Series at Fenway Park.
Aaron Judge strolled out of Fenway Park carrying a portable speaker blaring “New York, New York.” The Sox responded by belting the Yankees, 16-1, two days later then eliminated them in Game 4.
Their celebration at Yankee Stadium that night was a loud one.
The game is better when a Red Sox-Yankees game means something. We may not again experience the bitterness that led to Pedro Martinez tossing aside Don Zimmer or Jason Varitek giving Alex Rodriguez a taste of his glove. But it would be nice to see a little heat after two years of the Red Sox not putting up much of a fight.
There was barely a heartbeat on Saturday. J.A. Happ, who the Yankees have used carefully so his $17 million contact option for 2021 doesn’t vest, stuffed the Sox for eight innings. He allowed four hits without a walk and struck out nine.
The teams play for the last time this season on Sunday. Maybe the Sox will remember it’s supposed to mean something.