BOSTON -- Since it reached its height in the 2004 postseason, the greatest rivalry in sports had declined to near irrelevancy the past decade.
But now, a Red Sox-Yankees game has a unique feeling similar to the one it had back when Boston was always chasing New York. Only now, roles are reversed -- but everything is still on the line.
“Red Sox-Yankees is always a great rivalry,” Mookie Betts said following Saturday’s 6-5 win, “but knowing that it’s for playoffs, too, makes it that much more fun.”
While the Yankees’ chance at winning the AL East title isn’t great, their chances at the wild card were still very much realistic entering this series.
The Red Sox -- who were only one game up in the AL East standings entering the series -- were in danger of becoming a wild-card team after losing two of three at Fenway Park to the Orioles.
Now, Boston holds a three-game lead entering Sunday night's series finale with New York. The Yankees have dropped to four back in the wild-card race behind the Blue Jays and Orioles.
“That walk-off that [Hanley Ramirez hit on Thursday night], that’s probably what shifted everything,” Xander Bogaerts said following his three-hit performance Saturday. “If we would have lost that game, [this series] probably feels a little bit different. We’re happy we got that one.
“This is what fans live and die for. They want to see Red Sox-Yankees baseball, and we’re doing a good job of winning the ballgames.”
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Boston hasn’t just been winning the games this series alone. They now sit 10-5 against New York -- securing a season-series win -- with three games left to play in the Bronx following Sunday’s nightcap.
While the tensions are at their height, with both teams scratching to make the postseason, some players feel as if that tone has run throughout 2016.
“Even the games earlier this year, when Papi [David Ortiz] hit the oppo-home run off [Dellin] Betances, and then Vazky [Christian Vazquez] -- I forget the order they did it in -- hit the homers in the [eighth],” Matt Barnes said referencing the Red Sox wins on April 29 and May 1. “To me those games were just as crazy and excited as they are now.
“These games have a little more leverage behind them, but its fun being a part of this rivalry and being a part of this series and winning these games. It’s a blast.”
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A lot can change for both teams with 14 games remaining and their playoff hopes very much alive, but one thing will ring true -- the New York vs. Boston rivalry is back in baseball.
Wouldn’t it be something to have that in October again, too?
Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar