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The biggest question facing the Yankees before their four-game series with the Red Sox kicked off was whether or not they could turn around their miserable record against the best teams in baseball. Four emphatic yeses later, the entire face of the American League race has been turned on its ear.
It's hard to believe that the first eight games against Boston came in the same season as the last four. Remember those eight games? They featured a pinstriped team that was mediocre at the plate, abysmal in relief and incapable of putting forth the dominant start that made the first two things irrelevant. Those eight games were the reason why there were still doubts about the Yankees. No matter how far they ran their record above .500, no matter how many series they won and no matter how gaudy their numbers, the fact that they looked so bad when they needed to look their best gave everyone pause.
Now, though, it's possible to talk about 18 wins in 23 games since the All-Star Break and 31 wins in the last 41 games overall and say, with confidence, that it means they're the class of the American League. There are still questions, especially at the back of the rotation, but none of them deal with the fundamentals of the team in the same way as their previous inability to beat winning teams.
That shifts all the pressure in the AL on the other teams. The Red Sox can't hid their slump behind the fact that they beat the Yankees anymore, and will have to deal with a media and fanbase that will be eager to tell them that the sky is falling. They'll also need to figure out how to stay ahead of the Rangers, Mariners and a Rays team that has a record nowhere near as good as their +81 run differential should produce.
The Yankees, meanwhile, only need to worry about maintaining their own record and keeping on their path to the postseason. No more lingering doubts about their mettle or nagging reminders that some games matter more than others. They even found a way to get the Stadium full and rocking for four straight nights, proving it can, in fact, be done. One more reason why this weekend was a game-changer for the Yankees.