scorecardresearch Skip to main content
On baseball

Red Sox are focused on making the playoffs, not catching the first-place Yankees

Trevor Story and the Red Sox are 10-1-2 in their last 13 series.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

It surely wasn’t intentional, but the American League East standings on the Green Monster are in the direct line of sight of where the manager usually stands in the home dugout.

It’s a constant reminder to the person with one of the hardest jobs in sports exactly where you stand.

This season, it’s been best to avert your eyes. The Yankees are 50-18 and lead the third-place Red Sox by 12½ games.

It’s hard to believe the Sox have the fifth-best record in the league and trail by that many games. But the Yankees are on pace to win a major league-record 119 games.


That’s nine more than the 1927 Yankees. Aaron Judge, meet Babe Ruth.

But while Alex Cora can’t help but see the standings across the field, he has them in the proper perspective.

“Last year we made the Wild Card [Game],” he said Tuesday before a 5-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers. “We got to October and we were two wins away from the World Series.

“Yeah, [the Yankees] are doing an outstanding job. They’re playing good baseball. We have to take care of business.”

Cora looked at that scoreboard before the game on Tuesday and saw the Red Sox had moved into third place for the first time since April 22 and were closing in on second-place Toronto.

The Sox have won 15 of 19 games despite having Nate Eovaldi and Garrett Whitlock on the injured list.

Rich Hill, who went five innings for the win on Tuesday, sees a team focused on the game in front of it and not worrying about how many games it is out of first.

Rich Hill, wjho picked up the win Tuesday night against Detroit, says this Red Sox team has the right approach.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“We’re not trying to do too much,” he said. “It’s all coming together. It’s definitely an attribute of a winning club to make sure you stay in the moment.”


That there are now three wild-card spots certainly made it easier to recover from a slow start.

“There was no panicking. We knew what we had to do,” said Ryan Brasier, who pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Hill. “We knew things would eventually start falling our way.”

The Yankees? They were out of sight and out of mind. The Sox haven’t played their rivals since April 10 and won’t play them again until July 7.

The Sox were aware of what the Yankees were doing, but it wasn’t like they could do anything to stop them.

“They’re doing what we did in ‘18,” Brasier said. “Same kind of thing. The way we’re playing now and the way they’re playing, our next series will be a bruiser.”

And that’s really the point. No matter what the regular-season records are, a playoff series between the Red Sox and Yankees takes on a life of its own.

In 2018, the Sox won 108 games and lost Game 2 of the Division Series against the Yankees at Fenway. The Sox had an uneasy day off then clobbered the Yankees, 16-1, in the Bronx and went on to win the series in four games.

Jarren Duran and the Red Sox had plenty of reasons to smile Tuesday night as they knocked off the Tigers at Fenway.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Under the new playoff format, two division winners get a bye into the Division Series.

The third division winner gets the third seed and hosts the No. 6 seed in a best-of-three series.

The No. 4 seed hosts No. 5 in a best-of-three.

The teams that advance will be at a clear disadvantage in the Division Series after using at least two of their starting pitchers. But that’s a problem the Red Sox will welcome.


They beat the Yankees in the Wild Card Game last season then took out the rested Rays in four games in the Division Series.

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll be fine at the end of the year,” Brasier said. “Your record doesn’t matter once you get to the playoffs.”

When the Sox were 10-19 and the wolves were howling after five consecutive losses, Cora’s message was to win the next series.

The Sox are 10-1-2 in 13 series since.

“That’s the only way you can do it, right?” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re at. I’ve said all along, we got ourselves in a deep hole. Now we’re in a better position. But we still have to keep fighting.”

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him @PeteAbe.