Mason: Fitting for Yankees to eliminate Red Sox in AL East race

D.J. LeMahieu has been a game-changing addition for the Yankees. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Around the Horn is a weekly column from Chris Mason, where the Eagle-Tribune beat writer offers nine thoughts from the Red Sox clubhouse.

With Alex Cora's club falling out of the playoff race, this installment focuses on just how we got here. 

1. A fitting AL East ending

Five.

That's how many times the Red Sox beat the Yankees in their 19 games this year. 

As such, Boston's bid for a fourth straight American League East title went out with a whimper on Sunday night. They were mathematically eliminated in early September. 

Nobody seemed to pay it much mind as the Sox fell 18 1/2 games back with 18 to play. It'd been a foregone conclusion for weeks that reached a fitting ending. 

"Since the first series, they just dominated us," Alex Cora said. "They’re doing a lot of things better than last year. A lot. We’re not playing at the same level."

2. Failure to launch?

Interestingly, whenever Cora has been asked about New York's improvement, the first player he's cited has been D.J. LeMahieu.

In an era of launch angle, LeMahieu is a throwback player that puts the ball in play. Cora believes that's contagious, and the Yankees are better for it.

"I do believe D.J. changed the complexion of that lineup," he said. "With two strikes, putting the ball in play. They always controlled the strike zone. A lot of swings and misses last year and in ‘17. I saw that first hand two years in a row. It was a lineup you were able to expand with certain pitches in certain situations. Now it’s hard to do."

3. Sox keep losing against winners

The Yankees aren't the only quality opponent the Red Sox have struggled with. 

After dropping three of four from New York, Boston fell to 25-42 against teams with a winning record. If that's anywhere close to .500, they'd be very much in the hunt.

4. Heck of a run, E-Rod

Lost in the shuffle against the Yankees was another excellent start from Eduardo Rodriguez. 

He's threw six innings of one-run ball Monday night, and has posted a 1.13 ERA in his last five outings. For the year he sits at 17-6 with a 3.73. Rodriguez has taken a leap forward.

So what is it that's led to this career season?

"I would say this year I’m healthy," Rodriguez replied. "That’s what I think has been the big change for me. Work ethic with the trainers and everything has been working really well for me this year."

5. Innings leader, too

With 178 2/3 under his belt, Rodriguez is going to be the Red Sox runaway winner in innings pitched. I wonder what Las Vegas odds on that would have been back in spring training. 

"This guy has been very consistent for us and you see him growing each outing," Cora said.

6. Price shutdown?

With the Red Sox out of contention, don't hold your breath on a David Price return (wrist) this season.

"He was feeling better," Cora said. "We'll see where it goes. He's not going to pitch this week. So I think obviously the calendar we're running out of time, but you always want guys to finish healthy, the season. If we find a way that he can go out there and perform, it will be good, but at the same time we've gotta be smart about it. David is a huge part of what we're trying to accomplish in the upcoming years."

If this is it for Price, it'll be the second time in three years he's given the Sox fewer than 110 innings. 

7. Help wanted at 1B

A weapon off the bench in July, Sam Travis has cooled off in a big way. 

Since August 20, Travis came into last night 2 for 26. It's a reminder that the first base gig is going to be wide open next season. With Steve Pearce and Mitch Moreland's contracts expiring, there should be a heck of a spring training competition between Travis, Michael Chavis, and Bobby Dalbec. 

8. Strange days

It's a bizarre sight to watch the Red Sox play meaningless games in early September, but Gorkys Hernandez and Chris Owings on Cora's lineup card over Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts show that they're just that. 

That it's so strange is testament to how dominant the Sox have been in recent years, but also an indictment on how disappointing this season has been. 

9. A Big Papi sized message

When David Ortiz returned to Fenway Park Monday night, he brought with him a reminder to cherish every day. That wasn't lost on players in the Sox clubhouse. 

“Any time you go through something that’s life altering, you’re going to have that greater appreciation knowing that you get another chance," Jackie Bradley Jr. said. "He enjoyed life always, he’s always enjoyed life. I’m sure he’s going to enjoy it even more now.”

As the great Warren Zevon once said, "Enjoy every sandwich." 

Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for the Gloucester Daily Times and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at cmason@northofboston.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason

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