Heading into Monday night's start of the final regular season series of the year, the big question was whether or not the Red Sox would gleefully play spoiler to the Yankees' chances of winning the American League East.
That question ignored three pretty meaty pieces of information. The first is that the Red Sox have already played spoiler this season, something easily seen when you catch a glimpse of the burning wreckage that is this year's Boston baseball team.
The second is that these Red Sox, with numbers befitting an offensive line and names that have you reaching for a search engine, don't really seem well versed enough in the history of baseball to care about making life miserable for the Yankees. And then there's the fact that the few remaining vets seem thrilled to be making Bobby Valentine experience absolutely no joy before his one year as Red Sox manager comes to a bloody end.
So it wasn't much of a surprise to see Clay Buchholz grinning on the mound when Russell Martin hit the third home run of the second inning or to see the Red Sox go through the motions after the Yankees put up nine runs in that marvelous romp of an inning. Thirteen batters came to the plate, four home runs flew out of the yard and the Yankees were on their way to a rare 10-2 laugher to break the tension of the last month.
The laughter grew even louder when the news came in from Tampa that the Rays had held off the Orioles 5-3 to lift the Yankees to a one-game lead in the division. Now all the Yankees have to do is beat these hapless and hopeless Red Sox twice more (or once with another Orioles loss) in order to grab the AL East free and clear.
That's a lot of reason to smile and the crowd at the Stadium responded well, including a seventh-inning roll call started in the left field bleachers that wasn't quite as good as the one coming from their right field cousins in the first inning but was another sign that this wasn't your normal heart-wrenching bout of a pennant race game. It was pretty much over once Martin, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and the returning Mark Teixeira homered in that glorious second inning and everyone spent the rest of the night celebrating.
This being the Yankees, there had to be some dark cloud for people to grab onto before the night was out and the subject this evening was leaving CC Sabathia in the game for eight innings with the playoffs looming. Joe Girardi's stated reason -- keeping the bullpen rested -- was pretty lame given the expanded rosters, but we don't really have a problem with the Yankees treating this like a real game right down to Sabathia's workload.
Just because the Red Sox aren't acting like these games count doesn't mean the Yankees have to follow their lead.