The New Boston Massacre

What a difference four decades makes. In 1978, the Boston Massacre meant the Yankees sending the Red Sox to a reality check that enabled the Yankees to catch and tie them for the American League East and force a one-game playoff that piled onto the Red Sox's then-swelling legacy of outrageous sorrows. In 2018, the Boston Massacre means the division race all but done — with the Yankees on the 9.5 game short end.

The New York Post calls it the Yankees' lost weekend. There may be other less kind appellations to attach to it, after Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi whacked an RBI single to walk it off, 5-4, in the bottom of the tenth Sunday night. The noise in Fenway Park was enough to make a passer-by outside the park think someone lured David Ortiz out of retirement to end it.

Both the first and the fourth games had Yankee leads destroyed. The first one saw the Yankees ahead 3-0 last Thursday, when the game wasn't four batters old; the fourth Sunday night saw a 3-run Yankee lead going to the bottom of the ninth. Both times the Yankees couldn't hold those leads. Sunday night's blown lead really hit where it hurt.

Thursday ended with Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce channeling his inner Ortiz hitting three home runs and a 15-7 Red Sox wipeout. But there's a case to make that Sunday night really hit the Yankees where it hurt. They looked like the pre-2004, Greek-tragic Red Sox dissembling in the key moments, and the Red Sox looked like the opportunists who used to take complete advantage of those dissemblies.

It was J.D. Martinez rapping a two-run single off Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman — who'd lost enough control to walk the bases loaded in the first place — and Yankee infielder Miguel Andujar's throwing error on Xander Bogaerts's grounder, throwing on a hop first baseman too tough for first baseman Greg Bird to handle, that tied the game at four. It was Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes erasing the Yankees in order in the top of the tenth almost in a blink.

In the bottom, it was Sandy Leon singling up the pipe and taking second on a wild pitch with two out in the bottom of the tenth, Mookie Betts drawing a free pass to first, and Benintendi sending Leon's pinch runner (and AAA callup) Tony Renda home with a ten-hop bounder up the pipe and past two shifted Yankee fielders.

And it was Johnny Pesky stuck with a high throw, Joe McCarthy lifting Ellis Kinder, Luis Aparicio tripping around third, Bill Lee throwing an insult pitch, Don Zimmer starting untried Bobby Sprowl instead of Luis Tiant, John McNamara staying with creaky Bill Buckner, Grady Little measuring Pedro Martinez's heart more than his fuel tank, and the Chicken-and-Beer Club in Yankee pinstripes. With Enos Slaughter, Tony Perez, Bucky Bleeping Dent, Mookie Wilson, and Aaron Boone in Red Sox silks.

Benintendi may or may not be aware of the Red Sox's pre-2004 history. But in the moment Sunday night he was very well aware that the Red Sox had just performed what was once thought the impossible. "Everybody knew how big the series was," he said after the game. "We came in and did what we wanted to do. We kind of stole this one."

Boone, now the Yankees' manager, wouldn't exactly say the Red Sox stole Sunday night. "It was a tough way to end a tough weekend," he said. But he's only too well aware that his Yankees have one foot in the season's grave with the second one closer than they'd like to admit.

Some thought Chapman was a little on the rusty side after not having worked since last Tuesday, but the closer rejects that theory. "I can't use that as an excuse," he said Sunday night. "It's a bad outing." Some thought the Yankees playing without injured Aaron Judge meant a handicap. "These guys are tough minded," Boone said flatly. "It's tough for us right now, and we will lean on each other and count on each other."

The Yankees' Sunday night starter, Masahiro Tanaka, pitched well enough to win even when things got dicey in the fifth inning. David Price, the Red Sox's Sunday starter, out-pitched Tanaka by a hair or two. By the time Tanaka came out with a swollen pitch count, he'd kept the Red Sox to a single run, and that was Mookie Betts hitting one over the left center field side of the Green Monster. It gave the Red Sox a short-lived 1-0 lead lost in the seventh on a two-run shortstop error, an RBI single, and a sacrifice fly.

Once upon a time that would have gone into the logs of season-turning if not season-ending Red Sox disintegrations. These are not your grandfather's, or your great-grandfather's Red Sox, kiddies.

Rookie manager Alex Cora isn't Don Zimmer, who was as the Boston Globe describes him, sensitive and stubborn. Sensitive Cora is. Stubborn he left behind with his playing days, especially after that 18-pitch, 2-run homer he hit as a Dodger in May 2004. He trusts his veterans implicitly and makes more than enough room for his youth to play with a zing unseen among young Red Sox since John Farrell's first managing season — the one in which the Red Sox won a third World Series in seven seasons.

Just how effectively has Cora facilitated this Red Sox threshing machine? Their longest losing streak of the year so far is three. And that happened in April.

Cora is smart enough to know this weekend wasn't even close to being the same thing for the Yankees as losing four straight after having the Red Sox down to their last out in the 2004 American League Championship Series. That one sent the Red Sox to the World Series and their way overdue return to the Promised Land. This one will have to settle for possibly securing Red Sox insurance to the postseason.

But the sting is almost as painful. The Yankees are learning how the Red Sox felt over all those old generations. And they're learning it while sitting farther behind the Red Sox in the AL East than any other second place team in any other division now sits. They must have had enough hints when Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox's non-waiver deadline pickup from Tampa Bay, refused to allow anyone to awaken their slumbering lumbers Friday and Saturday.

The good news is, the Yankees won't see the Red Sox again until mid-September, and they have a comparatively unoffensive schedule for the rest of August before they wrestle with Oakland and Seattle in early September. The bad news may be whatever this Boston Massacre really took out of them by the time it was over. "It's a big climb," Boone said, "but we can't worry about that. We have to right our own ship and start playing well."

But what if the ship is taking on too much water already and the rest of the Yankees' opponents before mid-September — even the Orioles and the White Sox, facing two sets each with the Bronx Battered (don't laugh: the Yankees are only a .500 team against the Orioles this season thus far) — offer them torpedoes to repair it?

Last week, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees still have the Red Sox's number despite the Red Sox having baseball's best record. What will he say now that the Boston Massacre ended with the Red Sox out-scoring the Yankees 27-13? With the Red Sox now having won 12 times after being down three or more runs, the best in Show this year thus far?

Cashman might start by reminding himself that a big mouth works best when it's kept shut. The same way the 1951 Dodgers were reminded when manager Charlie Dressen led his men in singing "Roll out the barrel/the Giants is dead!" after padding their ill-fated pennant lead to 14 games at the explicit expense of Leo Durocher's Giants. Except the Yankees and the Red Sox aren't as likely to resort to espionage as Durocher was.

The Red Sox's social media people had an answer for him. "Damage done," they tweeted. And that was only after Thursday night's human rights violations. "Might be worth a follow over the next three games," The Sporting News said of that tweet. If they give Pulitzer Prizes for distinguished understatement, The Sporting News may have just won one.

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