NEW YORK -- What the Boston Red Sox did yesterday was complete the most destructive 4-3 week of the season with an 8-3 win over the New York Yankees.
They don't have enough time to finish the job themselves, but in the past seven days, the Red Sox all but ended the race in the American League East.
They are restricted to the role of active observer -- which puts them in the same category as some of the Yankee Stadium fans. But the Red Sox played the most dramatic role in the AL East the past week.
They started by putting the Orioles in a slide, winning two of three in Boston. They followed that by splitting four games with the Yankees -- a series they easily could have swept.
Those four wins left two teams on the brink of elimination. And now, the Yankees and Orioles must rely on the Red Sox to help get them back in the race.
"I hope they play the Blue Jays the same way they played us," Yankees pitcher Jimmy Key said. "They [the Red Sox] played great."
After a day off today, the Red Sox will put their finishing touches on the race with three games in Toronto. And manager Butch Hobson promises nothing less than the effort he got during the weekend.
"I don't look at it like that," Hobson said when told his team virtually had wrecked the race. "We're trying to finish third, and maybe even second. That's how we have to approach it.
"I'm very proud of my people," said Hobson, sounding more like his old football coach, Bear Bryant, than a big-league manager. "Last night [Saturday] was a tough loss, but they came out ready to play.
"We're going to go to Toronto and do the same thing -- we want to make them earn it."
It is to the credit of Hobson and his players that the Red Sox have been able to play such a vital role in the AL East race. Instead of wondering what might have been had Roger Clemens (11-13) had a normal season and reliever Jeff Russell and designated hitter Andre Dawson stayed healthy, the Red Sox have played with enthusiasm.
"Any time you beat a team like the Yankees -- it's a great rivalry to begin with -- you've got to get a great deal of satisfaction out of it," said right-hander Danny Darwin (15-11), the winning pitcher yesterday. "Especially after last [Saturday] night."
It was on Saturday that the Yankees, benefiting from an umpire's timeout call with two outs in the ninth inning because a fan was on the field, rallied for three runs and a 4-3 win.
But if there was any carry-over effect, it had a negative impact on the Yankees, not the Red Sox.
"I don't think there was any tension in here [the clubhouse]," Darwin said. "But a lot of guys had that look in their eyes."
On the field yesterday, the Yankees made three quick errors to dig a hole for newcomer Frank Tanana, and they never recovered. "That isn't the norm here," Yankees manager Buck Showalter said. "Our guys have caught the ball pretty well this year."
In less than 24 hours, the Yankees clubhouse had gone from euphoria to near-desperation. "All you can say about that game is . . . it happened," said first baseman Don Mattingly, whose two-run single produced Saturday's dramatic win. "There's pressure to win every day now, and that's not going to change.
"For now, we've got a day off [today], and then we've got to pick it up and play well for the next two days before we think about anything else."
In this case, "anything else" is a reference to the Yankees' three-game series in Toronto next weekend. That could be rendered meaningless if the Yankees don't defeat the Minnesota Twins tomorrow and Wednesday.
The Orioles face an almost identical situation. They, like the Yankees, trail the Blue Jays by five games in the loss column.
For both teams, the Red Sox have to have some more dramatics left in order for the AL East race to be revived.
"Right now, all we can do about this game [yesterday's loss] is blow it out of our minds," Yankees second baseman Mike Gallego said.
"We've got to stay in there and keep plugging away -- it's all we can do. It's getting closer and closer to the time when we're looking at having our backs against the wall, but we have to keep playing hard. We can't stop now."
But, as is always the case after these teams meet, the possibility of a letdown exists.
"It was pretty intense for me," Hobson said.
"It was obviously pretty intense for the fans [who must have set all kinds of records for intrusions], and my people approached it the same way. I'm very proud of the way we handled it.
"And we'll go about it the same way in Toronto."