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Sixteen games remain this season between the Red Sox and their runaway rivals, the Yankees, but there is little reason to expect a reversal of the wild finish to the 1978 AL East divisional race 44 years later.
It was Don Zimmer’s Red Sox who built a 14-game cushion over the reeling defending World Series champions by July 19. But the first of George Steinbrenner’s five firings of Billy Martin resulted in a furious second-half comeback under replacement Bob Lemon — and a one-game playoff for the division title (Bucky “Freaking” Dent!) — before the Yanks completed the repeat with a second straight ouster of the Dodgers in the Fall Classic.
The Yankees now are the ones holding a 14-game cushion over the Red Sox (and Rays, with the Blue Jays an additional half-game back) in the East as they head to Fenway Park for the first time Thursday night since they were booted in the AL wild-card game last October.
Gerrit Cole, who lasted just two innings in that 6-2 season-ending defeat, will be back on the mound for the Yanks against rookie right-hander Josh Winckowski, the former Mets farmhand who has posted a 3.12 ERA over his first five starts.