After decades of study, scientists revealed nearly three weeks ago that a disease might help explain the long-running feud between the Hatfields and McCoys. Had those same researchers asked, Red Sox fans could have suggested something much simpler.
Sunday night's extravaganza between the Red Sox and the Yankees marked the 1,975th time the two teams met in the regular season since 1903, and rarely has it produced a more satisfying weekend in Boston. The Red Sox came from behind to win all three games, sweeping a series against the Yankees in Fenway for the first time since 1990. Boston hit four consecutive home runs in the span of 10 pitches in the third inning of the last one, a feat that has been accomplished only five times in major league history.
By the end of that-back-to-back-to-back-to-back sequence, it was harder to tell whether the better party was taking place in the Red Sox dugout or the stands, jammed with a crowd of 36,905, the second largest at Fenway since World War II.
For all that, though, New York left town still holding a 191-game lead in the regular-season tally, not to mention 26 World Series titles to Boston's half-dozen. With five more series scheduled between the division rivals even before a possible playoff match-up, Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell cautioned the locals not to get too excited.
"You've got to keep it in perspective," the hero of Sunday night's tug-of-war said. "It's April."
Besides, the Red Sox had just about everything in their favor. Manager Terry Francona's rotation happened to align just perfectly for the series. On the other hand, Yankees manager Joe Torre should have apologized for what he threw out there (Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright).
Once the buzz from the weekend quiets down, Red Sox fans would be wise to take Lowell's words to heart. Their World Series title in 2004 raised expectations considerably, and the cost of doing business by even more.
They caught the Yankees as short-handed as they're likely to be the rest of the way. They beat closer Mariano Rivera to get one win, and collected two more by beating kids who asked their new teammates for advice on how to handle the hyper-charged atmosphere and still pitched like they didn't have a clue.
New Yorkers still like to joke that the rivalry between the two towns resembles the rivalry "between a hammer and a nail," and thorough as the beating was over the weekend, there was nothing to indicate the Yankees plan on being on the receiving end for long.
"We didn't play well and we lost three games," Yankee captain Derek Jeter said. "But we've got 147 left."