Deep thoughts: Sept. 21

? First-place Yankees. I didn’t think I would say that again this year. But the Yanks are back atop the American League East for the first time in 66 days after Randy Johnson undressed the Orioles on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Yankee-killer Jonny Gomes’ two-run triple keyed a five-run eighth inning as the Devil Rays overcame a two-run deficit in the eighth inning to knock off the Sox, 7-4.

This race is far from over. But the Yankees are playing inspired, gritty ball. In fact, they are playing like last year’s Red Sox. Meanwhile, except for AL MVP candidate David Ortiz, it looks like the Sox are just going through the motions.

Yes, the Yankees are supposed to win because of their enormous payroll. But over the last few years, the Yanks looked like overpriced robots on the field. They lacked the heart that the 1996, 1998-2001 teams displayed. Well, the 2005 edition has a fire in its belly. Last year finished in horrible fashion. They don’t want that to happen this season.

The Yankees have 11 games left, while the Sox have 10 to play. The division will be on the line next weekend when the two clubs collide at Fenway Park.

? The Big Unit was marvelous, taking a no-hitter in the fifth. He gave up one run on three hits over eight innings, and struck out six. The top of the lineup struggled mightily — A-Rod struck out three times — but surprise starter Matt Lawton came through with a two-run homer.

The Unit has driven me crazy this summer, but he’s getting the job done in September (2-0, 2.74 ERA).

? What the Foulke is up with the Sox? I don’t understand why he wasn’t out there tonight on the mound. Instead, Mike Timlin allowed three runs in the eighth inning and spoiled Tim Wakefield’s bid for his 16th win.

? Speaking of stinkin’ Sox: The Indians are going to win the AL Central. Travis Hafner ripped two dingers Wednesday as the Tribe rolled to a series-clinching 8-0 win. The teams meet again next weekend at The Jake.

? Things don’t get any better for the Pale Hose on Thursday as they face Johan Santana — who is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.89 against them this year. Meanwhile, the Indians head to KC.

? The Marlins are cooked, and so are the A’s. The Phillies, though, are still in the Wild Card hunt after their amazing win over the Braves.

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