The Yankees said all along that the Red Sox had not gotten into their heads.
To a man, the party line was this: Yes, Boston has beaten us in eight straight, and yes, we understand the importance of defeating our top rival, but, no, the struggles will not affect us in future meetings.
But there's saying the right thing and doing the right thing...and the Yankees hadn't done much of anything right against Boston this season.
The Yanks blew leads big and small, at home and on the road, the goat horns even finding their way to the great Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees desperately needed to make a statement last night in the opener of the pivotal four-game set between the two teams. And they did.
It wouldn't be quite fair to say that one win could wipe away the sins of eight previous losses, but Thursday's 13-6 wipeout of John Smoltz and the Red Sox came pretty close.
Even the most ardent wicked ahh-some Saux fan will admit that the teams are on even psychological ground now. If anything, it's suddenly Boston's mind-set that's being tested. Physically beat up and with a patchwork rotation, the Red Sox look nothing like the juggernaut of the first half.
The Red Sox are 7-11 since July 17 and just 24-21 since June 13. They are suddenly the weakened prey in the AL East safari, the predator Yankees primed for the kill.
The Yankees, meanwhile, are on fire again. Four straight wins have them at a season-best 24 games over .500. They are 15-5 in their last 20 games. If you take out three-game skids against the Angels and White Sox, they've been virtually unbeatable.
That's not to say it was all sunshine and rainbows for New York on Thursday. After seeing Good Joba for the first three starts after the break, Bad Joba made his unwelcome return against the Sox.
Chamberlain's ability to turn from good to bad is almost impressive at this point. You have to respect how instantaneously it can happen. It reached Shawn-Michaels-super-kicking-Marty-Jannetty-proportions last night. No warning at all, just an instant heel turn. Joba's next interview should be from the Barber Shop.
Which reminds me, can we ship Joba back to Nebraska for a few days now so he can "find himself" again? (One of the dumbest media-created subplots of the season for me.)
Things get really interesting tonight, as A.J. Burnett gets his third crack against the Red Sox, facing off against Josh Beckett.
Burnett was signed by the Yankees in part because of his success against Boston. That hasn't translated thus far. In two starts against the Sox, Burnett has allowed 13 runs (11 earned) on 13 hits in 7 2/3 innings. That's a 12.91 ERA, a mark only Chien-Ming Wang could envy. (Too soon?)
Burnett famously coughed up a 6-0 lead at Fenway back in April, a head-shaking effort that came on the heels of Mo's blown save against Jason Bay. He has been much better of late, though he was battered by the White Sox last Saturday.
Burnett will need to step up tonight and make a statement, just as the Yankees did on Thursday.