BOSTON — Something happened while Manny was being, well, an idiot the last two months.
The New York Yankees proved, yet again, they are every bit as good as your Boston Red Sox.
Admit it, you weren't paying close attention. Whether it was the improbable run of the Tampa Bay Rays or the fact that old fogies Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte were at the top of the New York rotation — "They'll fall apart eventually," you figured. The Yankees weren't worth the trouble anymore.
The fact that the Red Sox were able to overcome David Ortiz missing 45 games over nearly eight weeks, and still sit near the top of the American League East heap might have had something do with it.
There's a different Steinbrenner spitting out the same demands on the back of the New York Post and a different Joe guiding the Bronx soap opera from the dugout.
But it is the same Yankees team your grandfather and great grandfather grew to despise and envy the last seven or eight decades heading into the real baseball season ... August and September.
The Yankees not only are not dead, they apparently have not taken kindly to the Red Sox stories about the birth of their dynasty.
Since a 20-25 start through May 20, the Yankees have been the best team in baseball at 38-21, including last night's 9-2 loss the Red Sox.
While Ortiz battled injuries, the Yankees have easily trumped his time on the disabled list. Ace Chien-Ming Wang (8-2) hasn't pitched since June 15. Hideki Matsui hasn't played since June 23. And Jorge Posada has played in less than half of the Yankees' 104 games and will not play catcher again this season, if even comes back.
What they have done in their streak, particularly in July, is pitch. Before last night, starters had limited opponents to three earned runs or less in 15 of 16 games, allowing only three homers over that stretch. The relievers have been even more dominant, with a 1.60 ERA since June 27.