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Finding meaning in a meaningless series

The Red Sox have clinched everything, but they can make things as difficult as possible on the Yankees.

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox - Game 2 Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Six months ago, the MLB schedule makers were looking like absolute geniuses.

Both the Red Sox and Yankees had spent the winter revamping their rosters to make a deep playoff push, and the schedule linked them up for two three-game sets in the month of September – the first in New York and the second in Boston – with the second series wrapping up the season once and for all.

If these two franchises had spent the entire season neck-and-neck, battling back and forth for the AL East title, could there have been a better way for the year to play out? Imagine if the Sox and Yanks were coming into this weekend only separated by a game or two. Imagine if the entire season was coming down to these last three games. At stake was either the advantage of going straight to the ALDS next week, or having to play in the one-game wild card playoff.

If that were the case, this would be one very intense weekend at Fenway Park.

Instead, the Red Sox have been the American League East champions for about a week. They are nine games ahead of the Yankees. They’ve been ahead of them since early July. The division has seemingly been wrapped up for weeks. There hasn’t been the same sense of competition between the two clubs that there was in the first half of the year. That’s why this upcoming series to end the 2018 season really doesn’t mean much. Each day gets us another day closer to October, but there’s nothing really important for the Red Sox to play for.

But if they want something to motivate them for this series, the Red Sox can make things as difficult as possible for New York.

The Yankees are locked into the American League Wildcard game. The only question is, will the Yankees get to play that one-game playoff in the confines of their beloved Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, or will they have to make a very long trip all the way across the country to the west coast to play a single game?

That’s what the Yankees are playing for this weekend. Only 1.5 games separate them from the Oakland A’s in the wild card race as of this writing, and that will change by a half-game in either direction depending on the outcome of this afternoon’s Yankees-Rays game. If they don’t take care of business in Boston this weekend, there’s a chance they could find themselves flying cross country to the Oakland Coliseum. That certainly wouldn’t be the ideal situation for them.

Will the Red Sox be seriously concerned about this when they play New York this weekend? Not likely. It probably doesn’t matter to the players themselves what the Yankees have to do. They just know they are going to play whichever team wins the wild card game in the ALDS. They don’t care who it is. There is some advantage to having whoever wins that game having to fly across the country for the ALDS, but probably not enough to go all-out.

But for the fans? Well, let’s just say there wouldn’t be anything sweeter than watching the Red Sox force the Yankees into a six-hour flight to California and possibly sending them to their demise at the hands of the A’s.

Well, nothing sweeter other than winning the World Series in a month. But we’ll cross the bridge when we get to it.