A Blessing or Curse for the Yankees: Closing Out With the Red Sox - NBC New York

A Blessing or Curse for the Yankees: Closing Out With the Red Sox

Almost 20 percent of the Yankees' remaining games are against the Red Sox



    A Blessing or Curse for the Yankees: Closing Out With the Red Sox
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    Big Papi's just about the only Red Sox player who shouldn't have this facial expression.

    The Yankees have 81 games, exactly half the season, left on their schedule.

    Sixteen of those games, or almost 20 percent of the remaining slate, will be against the Red Sox. The first four of those games come this weekend as the Yankees play their way toward the All-Star break.

    Trips to Fenway Park are always grand theater, especially when the Yankees ruin the building's anniversary with dramatic comebacks that leave Red Sox fans cursing Bobby Valentine at every opportunity. This weekend should be particularly entertaining, since the timing of this series could turn out to be a blessing or a curse.

    It would be a blessing if the Yankees put their boot down on the Red Sox and close out the first half of the season with a flourish that leaves Red Sox nation in another depressive whirlpool. There are other rivals in the division, of course, but crushing the Sox now would make the team's odds of making the playoffs even higher.

    The curse would be a Red Sox win that puts wind in their sails just as the team is getting healthier. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford are due back after the break, which should provide a big boost to a team that landed only David Ortiz on the All-Star team. 

    Basically, Boston's season can go one of three ways after the break. It can crumble into a sea of schadenfreude-inducing glee for Yankee fans that makes last year's collapse look like a walk in the park, it can muddle along to a disappointing finish that avoids total humiliation or the Sox can get hot enough to make this a tight finish.

    The latter outcome is much likelier with a big series win this weekend. Even with Dustin Pedroia making a visit to the disabled list, winning here would combine with the 12 remaining games to create a springboard back to life for the Sox.

    The Yankees, who haven't had much more injury luck than Boston, although you'd never hear it through the moans up New England way, don't want that to happen. They want to take this chance to lay the hammer down and solidify themselves as the top dogs for the sprint to the finish that starts next week.

    It isn't winner take all, but it still registers pretty high on the drama meter.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.