Yankees Help Red Sox Stay In The Hunt

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Boston Red Sox fans are in a most uncomfortable position. They may have to cheer for the Yankees. Since early September, a Sox losing streak has erased most of a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card playoff spot. Boston's September slump is resurrecting bilious memories of classic late-season fades, and it has some Sox fans even pulling for Yankees, who have the power to keep the Rays at bay.


The Boston Red Sox are on the verge of a historic late-season collapse. Earlier this month, they were all but guaranteed a playoff spot, but the Sox have lost 15 of their last 20 games and are now in a desperate battle to make the postseason. Curt Nickisch reports from member station WBUR in Boston that adding insult to injury, Boston fans are now being forced to root for their hated rivals, the New York Yankees.

CURT NICKISCH: Maybe it's the cheese fries. Maybe it's the Long Island iced teas. But inside a bar near Fenway Park, Boston fan Annie Dantowitz is putting a positive spin on her team's downward spiral.

ANNIE DANTOWITZ: There's a strange familiarity and comfort in how the Red Sox are doing right now.

NICKISCH: Dantowitz says suffering through another classic September slump is good for the Sox fan's soul.

DANTOWITZ: Because this is what we live off of. If we were predictable and winning game after game and didn't make us, like, bite our nails or freak out about it, it wouldn't be the Red Sox.

NICKISCH: But it won't be the Red Sox in the postseason this year if they keep losing game after game the way they've been. The Sox are fighting for a single wild card playoff spot. And fans are in the odd position of needing help from their rival New York. The Yankees have been keeping another wild card contender, the Tampa Bay Rays, from gaining ground, and those two have four more games to play. Dantowitz would rather see Boston's season end than pull for the hated pinstripes. Her friend Brittany Langston isn't so sure.

BRITTANY LANGSTON: For us to actually get into the World Series, let me put it this way, I'm not rooting for the Yankees. I'm rooting against the Rays.

DANTOWITZ: I think that what you just said is basically being like: I don't want kittens to die.


DANTOWITZ: I just want a wolf to have its food.


NICKISCH: Such is the comically painful dilemma of today's Boston Red Sox fan. A sellout crowd packed Fenway Park last night for the final regular season home game.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh. Wow. He hit it hard, though. That's OK.

NICKISCH: Boston College undergrads Kevin McGovern and Tom Demers stood out in the deflated crowd. It says a lot that even with the best Red Sox pitcher on the mound, even with the two-run lead, even with the Sox playing one of the worst teams in baseball, the Baltimore Orioles, McGovern was nervous, anxiously cracking shells and munching on peanuts.

KEVIN MCGOVERN: Oh, I mean, you just never feel good in late season. I think it's just a New England bias.

NICKISCH: The bias comes from history. Sitting down the row, fan John Hanavan remembers 1978. That's when the red-hot Red Sox squandered a 14-game lead to cede their playoff spot to the Yankees. Still, Hanavan says that was under the famed Curse of the Bambino. He says many of the 2011 Red Sox have World Series rings.

JOHN HANAVAN: Yeah, it's different. Those other teams never won it all. This team has. They're going to do anything they can to get into the playoffs.

NICKISCH: Except for winning last night. In all-too-familiar fashion, Sox pitching gave up late runs. Fan Paul Limberty shook his head, watching another win fade into a loss.

PAUL LIMBERTY: I'll tell you what, everyone is going to boo if he strikes out, and I wouldn't have thought I'd see that at Fenway.


NICKISCH: The Boston Red Sox have six games left to pull it out, but they're all on the road, starting with Yankee Stadium tomorrow night. For NPR News, I'm Curt Nickisch in Boston.

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