After a brutal three game set against the Cleveland Indians, where the Yankees were swept, the team found themselves 5.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East. Last night marked the first game of the final four games against Boston, and the Yankees set the tone nicely with a 6 to 2 victory. As great as last night's win may have been, it means nothing if they can't find a way to shut the door for a second straight night in the Bronx, where Sonny Gray is set to pitch the biggest game of his young Yankee career.
Last night's win brought the Yankees a notch closer to the division leading Red Sox, but 4.5 games back still isn't anything to write home about. It was a step in the right direction, it set the tone for the series, and now it's time for the Yankees to build on the momentum. In my opinion, if the Yankees lose tonight against the Boston Red Sox, not only will it shatter their chances at winning the division, it could end their chances at making the postseason all together. If the Yankees are going to play good enough baseball to hold off the Wild Card competition, they will play good enough ball to win the division.
So, why is tonight the biggest game of the Yankees' season? Simple. With a win tonight the Yankees move up to being just 3 games behind in the loss column with two games left in the series. With a loss, they fall back to 5. Winning tonight leaves the Yankees with a much greater possibility of winning one of the last two games and ultimately win the series. Also, Doug Fister is on the hill tonight for Boston. Why is this significant? Although he has pitched better of late, his numbers on the season are far from impressive. Fister holds a 3-7 record with a 4.53 ERA in 12 games pitched (9 of which he started). Not to mention his struggles against the Yankees in his career. The Bronx Bombers hold Fister to a 2-4 record with a 6.38 ERA, the second highest against any opponent he's faced in the majors. Even more alarming, Yanks are batting .333 against him (also second most of any opponent) with a .382 OBP and a .523 SLG. What I'm getting at here is that the Yankees have a nice history when Fister is facing them, so they need to win this game.
Lastly, if you want to win this series, you have 3 games to do so. Last night, tonight, and tomorrow. I'm not saying the Yankees can't win when Sale is pitching because they've been able to do it all season. All I'm saying is, you can't depend on that game Sunday night to win the series. The Yankees need to come out tonight and put Doug Fister in his place, and they need to do it early before he has a chance to blink. Keep the momentum rolling and win the game you're supposed to win. We all saw what can happen when this Yankees' team gets down on themselves. They lose tonight and they can very well lose through the weekend.
So, to answer the question "Why is tonight the most important game of the season?" Because it's a game they should win facing Doug Fister. It's a game that will put them back within arm's reach of the division. It's a game that will further help set the tone for the remaining two games of the series. It's a game that keeps the dagger out of the Yankees' back, even if only for a day, allowing them another chance of bringing the AL East title back to the Bronx.
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