Red Sox and Yankees closer to last place than first, but for different reasons

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Take heart, Red Sox fans. You could be rooting for the Yankees.

Whatever the issues afflicting the local nine -- and they continued in an 8-1 loss to the Orioles on Monday -- at least Boston is trying to solve them with the same players that won last year's World Series.

The Yankees? They're spending more on their injured list ($80 million) than the first-place Rays are on their entire payroll ($60 million), and every day seems to bring a new casualty. The team the Red Sox will face for the next two nights in New York bears little resemblance to the one that won 100 games last year and brought out the best in Boston.

Maybe they'll do so again starting Tuesday.

"Absolutely. Absolutely," said first baseman Mitch Moreland. "Anywhere is a good place for it to happen, but might as well start there."

The Yankees are hobbled. New York's most recent misfortune came on Friday, when it placed slugging catcher Gary Sanchez on the 10-day injured list with a calf strain. That brought to 12 the number of Yankees sidelined with one malady or another (though CC Sabathia returned a day later to drop it back to 11).

And we're not talking scrubs, either. To wit:

* Sanchez expects to return when his 10-day stint expires, and fought even going on the IL for understandable reasons. He has started the year on fire, with six homers and a .732 slugging percentage.

* Giancarlo Stanton has been out since April 1 with a biceps strain and there's still no timetable for his return, though he acknowledged that if he misses another week or two, then he'll need a rehab assignment before he can face big league pitching.

* All-Star setup man Dellin Betances recently suffered a setback in his return from shoulder impingement that has sidelined him since spring training. The Yankees had hoped to have him back this month, but it now looks like he'll be sidelined at least another six or seven weeks after receiving a cortisone shot.

* Ace Luis Severino was scratched from his opening day start with shoulder inflammation, and since beginning a throwing program in Florida, has developed a significant Grade 2 lat strain despite working out under the watchful eye of the medical staff. He was supposed to remain out until mid-May, but it looks like it could end up being a lot longer than that.

* Promising young third baseman Miguel Andujar is trying to figure out if he can play through a torn labrum that he suffered on March 31. If he needs surgery, it will be season-ending. He recently resumed light tossing and hitting off a tee and isn't considered close to a return.

* Shortstop Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery and isn't expected back until the All-Star break.

* Gregorius's stopgap replacement, former All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, is also on the IL. He is slowly working his way back from a calf strain, and hopes to begin running on a treadmill shortly.

* Center fielder Aaron Hicks, a pleasant surprise last year with a career-high 27 home runs, has been sidelined since spring training with a bad back, and there's no timetable for his return.

* Pitchers Ben Heller and Jordan Montgomery are both expected to remain out until late summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

* Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury -- remember him? -- hasn't played for the Yankees since 2017 and that isn't expected to change anytime soon. He is still recovering from hip surgery and the Yankees recently gave away his locker. One year remains on his $153 million contract. Nice work if you can get it.

* In one piece of good news, Sabathia returned on Saturday after opening the season on the IR following offseason heart and knee surgery. He was outstanding, limiting the White Sox to just one hit over five shutout innings.

What the twin struggles of the Red Sox and Yankees have done is rob the American League East and baseball of what was supposed to be the game's signature rivalry.

Both clubs won over 100 games last year before the Red Sox dispatched the Yankees in a four-game American League Division Series. The Yankees entered spring training with the hunger of being the hunter, while the Red Sox returned basically everyone from their 119-win machine.

They were supposed to engage in their most spirited pennant chase since 1978, but instead each find themselves on the wrong side of .500. The Red Sox just split four games with the lowly Orioles, while the Yankees lost two of three against the mediocre White Sox.

"Right now, honestly, I am not looking around," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "I know where people are at, but we have to take care of us first."

Both teams are scuffling, and maybe we had it backwards off the top -- at least the Yankees have an excuse.

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