BOSTON (CBS) — Just when it looked like the Red Sox were ready to wake up and do some winning in 2019, it’s clear they only hit the snooze button. They better jump out of bed and get their act together this weekend in the Bronx.

A poor showing against the division-leading Yankees could end any shot the defending champs have at winning the AL East.

The Red Sox are in New York for four games against their hated rivals, who own a comfortable 7.5 lead over Boston in the AL East standings. Boston is actually third in their division, 6.5 games back of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.

Boston heads to New York losers of four of their last six. And eight of their last 15. Not a great way to follow up a five-game win streak earlier this month, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of what the season has been for the Red Sox. Any time it looks like they’re rounding a corner, they run straight into a wall instead.

“We’ll get there and we’ll try to win the series, you know? We just have to play better — that’s the bottom line,” Boston manager Alex Cora said Wednesday night after his team dropped their series finale against the Cleveland Indians.

While the offense has been better in May, slashing .282/.364/.498 and scoring 34 more runs than it did in April and May, it’s timely hitting that still escapes the Boston bats. They’re hitting just .229 with runners in scoring position over the last 15 games, and that dips down to an abysmal .151 (11-for-73) in their losses. Mix in the questionable pitching they’ve been getting from both starters and relievers, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have won 13 of their last 16 despite half their roster being on the Injured List. Giancarlo Staton has played in just three games this year, with Aaron Judge limited to just 20. Miguel Andujar’s season was over after just 12 games. And that is just their offense; starter Luis Serevino is likely out until after the All-Star break, and James Paxton just returned from his three-week stay on the shelf.

Despite all that, the Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball at 36-19. Divisions aren’t won before June, but taking three of four this weekend would build a nearly insurmountable lead over Boston in the standings. (They still have the Rays to worry about, as they’re just one game back.) But if the Yankees are playing this well without the bulk of their star power, one can only imagine what they’ll look like when their big bats and big arms return to the mix.

The Red Sox cannot afford to lose this series. A sweep would get them to within 3.5 games of the Yanks. Taking three of four would only chop two games off New York’s lead in the division, but it would be a start. Anything less, and they can probably say goodnight to winning a fourth straight AL East crown.

 

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