|Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott.
The Yankees open a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Friday night to close out what has been a superb first half in The Bronx.
The Yankees enter the series with a Major League-best record of 62-27, but they have hit their first bump in the road in the past week, as they have lost four of their past five games, and six of their past ten games.
The ten-game stretch began when they lost the series finale in Cleveland on July 3 after they romped over the Guardians in a double header the day before. They then dropped one of two in Pittsburgh before splitting four games with the Boston Red Sox last weekend at Fenway Park.
Then, the Cincinnati Reds stunned the Yankees by winning two of three this week at Yankee Stadium, including a 4-3 win Tuesday night in which they came back from 3-0 down in the ninth inning Tuesday night against closer Clay Holmes, and then after the Yankees won Wednesday night's game 7-6 in ten innings, the Reds returned the favor and won by the same score in 10 on Thursday night.
The Yankees still have a 13-game lead in the American League East, but the Tampa Bay Rays have shaved 2 1/2 games off that deficit in the past week, which includes a four-game sweep of the Red Sox.
Yankees Manager Aaron Boone, in his pregame press conference on Friday, was asked what's been different in this past two weeks, "We've played some teams that have played well against us, kind of won a couple close games against us. We weren't able to close one out that we always tend to close out (in obvious reference to Tuesday night), you know, just haven't played quite as well as we have the bulk of the season, and, you know, in this league, when that happens, and as I talk to you guys all the time, we have to play well no matter who we're playing. If we do that, we know we're as good as anyone, but we know anyone can come in here and knock us off, too."
Boone was then asked about how he balances the fact that they have a cushion with their division lead with the daily need to win, "You just do, you never lose - I think this group understands the importance of everyday. It's our job to strike that balance with the long game, but these guys are highly competitive and deadly serious on being great, so with that comes an edge and a focus that you've got to show up to the field with every day, and you know, I feel like we're doing that, even with this little bump we've hit this week where we've lost some games. Most of these guys have been through it enough to know those things are inevitable, even in a great season, and I feel like, from a makeup standpoint, we're fully equipped to deal with that."
On if he's slightly amused by the reaction to a down week in July when the ultimate goal is a World Championship, Boone said while smirking, "A little bit. I get amused by little things that a lot of people that have been in the game, whether it's me, coaches, players, media, that we get black and white on a series or we make declarative statements based off a week or a series or whatever we want to define things as, that always strikes me.
"Hopefully, we go on and win the East and win a hundred however many games, and if we're able to go that, it would be obviously a tremendous regular season, but even in that, you're gonna have bumps, have a week like we just had, or whatever, and that'll be the case for the next 20 years for a team that's great, or terrible, whatever. In a Major League Baseball season, that's just the nature of the beast, so we want to put ourselves in the best position, we want to win this division, that's our first and foremost goal and then go do something amazing in October, and we know ultimately, you know, certainly we'll be, you know, this team will be judged on that October run that hopefully we have in us, and we understand that, and that's one of the privileges of getting to play here and wear that NY," the skipper said while pointing to his cap.