BOSTON -- The schedule says the Red Sox return home this weekend.
The Sox will tell you this is nothing but a pit stop. Worse than that, by the time they cleared customs in Canada on Thursday night, the Yankees already were here waiting for them. That's like walking into your living room in the middle of the night to discover that your next-door neighbor is wearing your slippers, sitting in front of your big-screen, petting your dog and asking your wife to get him another beer.
Might as well keep the suitcases packed, except to swap out underwear. Sox players will wake up around noon Friday, drive into the Fens, play Friday night, return Saturday for a late-afternoon matinee, make an appearance in prime time Sunday night, then board a plane for a cross-country trip to play Monday night against the Giants.
The odyssey doesn't end there for the Soggy Bottom Boys. After a day off in L.A., where no one ever gets into trouble, the Sox conclude their gauntlet of 16 games over 19 days, six cities, three time zones and two leagues with three games against the Dodgers, a team so hot that legendary sports writer Mike Downey goes on his Facebook page to report that the Dodgers won tomorrow.
Sympathy? What, are you kidding? They know better. The Sox recognize that even in the eyes of their most loyal fans, their exalted economic status disqualifies them from being allowed to suffer any of the ill effects that can stagger even the most point-happy frequent flier. They are not permitted to plead jet lag, disrupted eating and sleeping routines, or the depression that comes when your own kids fail to recognize you when you go to kiss them goodnight.
And they don't have to be roused foggily from their slumber by the bleats of Toucher and Dennis, or is it Rich and Callahan, to know that The Olde Towne is united in its choice of advice: Suck it up. No time to ease up now. Not when the Rays are closing in -- just two games out after another one-run loss by the Sox on Thursday night meant five defeats in the past seven games -- and the Yankees are here, bent on adding to the misery.
Like a late-summer case of poison ivy, the Yankees are that rash that refuses to go away. They've had so many injuries this season, Curt Schilling wishes he hadn't auctioned off his bloody sock -- could have come in handy as a Bronx tourniquet. The Yankees have gotten so old, Hal Steinbrenner canceled Old-Timers' Day because he didn't want fans asking, "What's the difference?" General manager Brian Cashman had to go to the Statue of Liberty play to fill out his roster -- give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. And after he blew three straight saves last week, New York's top medical experts agree: Mariano Rivera does bleed, after all.
And as if the Yankees hadn't already exceeded their quota of misery, Alex Rodriguez came back.
And yet, the Yanks hardly rank at the top of the Sox's preferred guest list. Not now. Not in a week in which Alfonso Soriano hit four home runs and drove in 13 runs in two games. Not with Curtis Granderson back in the lineup, CC looking a bit more like himself and Mo still capable of turning back the clock. Not when the Yanks, who have ground Sox aspirations underfoot so many times before, have 10 more chances in the season's last 39 games -- including six games here -- to aim a crowbar at Sox shins again.
The temptation is to count the Yankees out. They are just four games over .500, six games behind in the wild-card race and have five teams in front of them for a playoff spot. Derek Jeter has played five games this season. Wait 'til next year, indeed. But ... dismiss that pinstriped pedigree at your own risk. The Sox won't. Perhaps a visit by the Yanks is just what it will take to revive the Sox, electrify their crowd, give them that energy boost they so desperately need. If not, this trip just got a whole lot longer.