The Boston Red Sox have essentially ended the Bombers' string of nine straight American League East pearls. Not only do they have that fat lead, but they've just had their first meeting with Tampa Bay -- meaning 20 percent of their second-half schedule is comprised of Devil Rays.
Where does that leave the Yankees, who don't plan on going quietly? Looking to exact the perfect revenge on the Tigers by turning the Wild Card on them: Home-and-home, four-game series against Detroit during an 11-game stretch in late August will be barking.
The entry-point doesn't matter. If the Yankees get into the postseason, they'd get another shot at the Red Sox. Brian Cashman still thinks they can do it, just by becoming themselves.
"We just need to play up to our abilities," the New York general manager said. "We need to concentrate on fixing the guys we have here, and moving in the right direction."
Craig Biggio's 3,000th hit, Sammy Sosa's 600th homer and Frank Thomas' 500th got the Milestone Summer into full swing.
Still on tap are Ken Griffey Jr. (closing in on 600), and 500 countdowns for Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.
While the home run hitters have a lot of company, Tom Glavine is on a private mission, perhaps bringing up the rear of his list. Three shy, he should nail down win No. 300 right about the time Pedro Martinez rejoins his side to put wind under the Mets' sail.
The NL West chairs are in place: Cue the music. The Dodgers, Padres and D-backs have taken turns atop the division, and there's no reason to think the logjam will ease up.
Any given day, the tide can turn. But the key week could be Sept. 11-16, when San Diego and Arizona take turns venturing into Chavez Ravine.
Cain and Able? This has nothing to do with the Giants (Matt Cain) or the Cubs (suddenly, looking very able to overcome the Brewers). But with Jeff Weaver having flipped his switch, the Mariners are trying to run down Jered Weaver's Angels.
Brother vs. brother
|If Jeff and Jered Weaver face each other this year, they will become the eighth set of brothers to meet on the mound in Major League history. |
|Andy (Cardinals) vs. Alan (Cubs) Benes||Sept. 6, 2002||
|Pedro (Expos) vs. Ramon (Dodgers) Martinez||Aug. 29, 1996||
|Greg (Cubs) vs. Mike (Phillies) Maddux||Sept. 29, 1986||
|Pat (Tigers) vs. Tom (Blue Jays) Underwood|| May 31, 1979||
|Gaylord (Indians) vs. Jim (Tigers) Perry||July 3, 1973||
|Phil (Braves) vs. Joe (Cubs) Niekro||July 4, 1967||
|Jesse (Dodgers) vs. Virgil (Giants) Barnes||May 3, 1927||
So a Weaver vs. Weaver lockup looms more likely, and certainly more important, than imagined months ago. Edge overload: Of course, Jeff was dealt a year ago by the Angels to make room for Jered, and their meeting would be only the eighth between brother pitchers in history.
Can the Brewers, a team which hasn't had a winning record since 1992, pull a Motown and seal the NL Central deal they've led from the beginning? It's a potboiler, because this division already has a reputation for furious comebacks, and because the neighborhood bully has finally been heard from.
The Cubs' den is a mere 80 miles from Miller Park. Talk about a block party: Aug. 28-30, in Chicago, are the only games remaining between them.
Like father, like son? Prince Fielder continues to lead the National League in home runs, with a chance to both match and trump Cecil. Prince is on pace to top pop's single-season best of 51, which led the AL in 1990. The Fielders would become the first father-and-son combo to lead a league in homers. Nope, Bobby Bonds never led.
The turn into September could be royal for Prince: First Wrigley, then back home for the Pirates; he has already clocked those teams for eight homers this season.
Mutt and Jeff, in the batting stratosphere? Can there be two more stylistically incongruous batters than Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers and Ichiro Suzuki of the Mariners? Doubtful -- but they're embroiled in one of the best batting races ever.
On July 4, both checked in at .369. Batting races are seldom run at such a high level. In fact, not since 1936 -- when Luke Appling won with .388 over Earl Averill's .378 -- have two in the same league done .370-plus.
Ichiro and Mags may not do it, either. But they'll be fun to watch coming out of the break on July 12-15 in Seattle and on Sept. 7-9 in Detroit.
Making up for lost time: 2006, you may recall, was the first full season without a single 20-game winning pitcher. The fraternity won't let that happen again.
C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Ben Sheets, Dan Haren, Carlos Zambrano and Dice-K are ahead of the pack, but nearly two dozen have a realistic chance to reach 20.