Yankees in do-or-die mode for massive Red Sox series

The day after the Yankees were swept by the Red Sox last month for the second time this season, Aaron Boone declared that his team’s season was on the line.

Twelve games of .500 baseball (including three brutal gut-punches for losses) and an All-Star break later, it’s do-or-die time with the Red Sox coming back to town.

There’s no soft opening to the second half of the season for the Yankees, who get back in action Thursday with a four-game series against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. That begins a stretch of 11 of 13 games against the Red Sox and Rays (including eight against AL East-leading Boston), which could ultimately define their season.

“Coming out of the break, it’s a huge deal,” right-hander Jameson Taillon said as the Yankees closed out the first half. “It’s right in front of us. We’ll have eight or 10 games where we can go out and take what’s ours. If we play well, we can put ourselves right back in the mix. If we don’t come out and play well, it’s not going to be good for us.”

While the rest of the league gets one more day to rest during the All-Star break, the spotlight will belong to the Yankees (46-43) and Red Sox (55-36) on Thursday night. The Yankees enter the series in a tie for third place in the AL East, eight games behind the Red Sox and 6 ¹/₂ behind the Rays.

The Red Sox have dominated the rivalry with the Yankees so far this season, sweeping a three-game set in The Bronx in early June before doing it again at Fenway Park at the end of the month.

The Yankees have talked plenty about using certain wins or series as springboards to finally get their season moving in the right direction, but thus far have been unable to follow through. They entered the most recent series in Boston having won seven of nine and having cut the Red Sox’s division lead down to four games, only to get swept and enter a tailspin in which they lost seven of eight.

Yankees Red Sox
Aaron Boone managing against the Red Sox on June 27, 2021.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

That led to Boone’s season-on-the-line comment and general manager Brian Cashman adding that the Yankees “suck right now.” At that point, Cashman was still planning to be a buyer ahead of the July 30 trade deadline and expected the trade market to open up after the MLB draft, which came to a close Tuesday. Now, this 13-game stretch could decide whether he remains a buyer.

The Yankees appeared to be gaining some momentum heading into the All-Star break, only to let a sweep of the Astros slip through their fingers as they ended the first half with another devastating loss by blowing a five-run lead in the ninth inning.

“That’s going to stick with you and that’s painful, but we also got to move on from it and understand that the stretch we’re about to embark on is too important and too great of an opportunity,” Boone said. “We have to build on the things that we’re doing well.”

While Boone, before Sunday’s meltdown against the Astros, was still working on his rotation order to come out of the break, the Red Sox have theirs set. Eduardo Rodriguez will get the nod to start the series, followed by Martin Perez, Nathan Eovaldi and Nick Pivetta.

“I hope everyone has a good break and physically and mentally resets,” Taillon said. “But at the same time, we need to come out ready for the second half because the Red Sox and Tampa Bay will be ready.”

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