About this time last year, the New York Yankees were not in the best shape. They had yet to hit their stride and were en route to going 0-8 in their first eight games vs. the Boston Red Sox. The Bronx Bombers eventually got it going, took over the American League East, and the rest is history.
This season things have begun differently.
On April 4, the Yanks and Red Sox opened the 2010 MLB season. Boston managed to rally back from a 5-1 deficit and beat the Yankees in the first game. The next two games belonged to New York however, as the Yanks bounced back from the heartbreaking Opening Night loss and took the series from the Red Sox, two games to one.
Tonight the rivalry heats up again at Fenway Park and the odds are looking to be in the Yankees’ favor. Since the last time they met, the Bombers have elevated their season record to 19-8, winning every series they have played this year except one. The Red Sox have been a different story, going 15-14 through the first 29 games this year.
Both teams are in significantly different places right now.
This weekend, more pressure is on the Red Sox to keep winning than the Yankees, even though both squads are on four-game winning streaks. If the Yankees were to sweep the Red Sox or take two games out of three, Boston will be put so far behind in the rearview mirror they would need a racecar to catch up.
At press time, they are 6 1/2 games out of first place and sitting in fourth place in the AL East standings. Meanwhile, the Yanks are 11 games above .500, have won seven of their last nine games, and are 1 ½ games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in second place.
Obviously the Yankees are better off than Boston, at least at this point.
Josh Beckett will look to keep Boston on their winning streak this evening. The Boston ace is not having an easy year so far, owning a record of 1-0 with a bloated 6.31 ERA. His last time out against the Yankees, he was lit up for five runs and eight hits over just 4 2/3 innings.
It always seems to be “feast or famine” for the Yanks against Beckett. Throughout his career, the right-hander has both dominated the Yankees and been dominated by the Yankees. His last time out vs. New York he was touched up, even though the Boston offense bailed him out of it and captured the win.
Opposing Beckett will be 23 year-old Phil Hughes. The youngster will be gunning for his fourth win of 2010 and will be looking for his first career win against the Red Sox. Lifetime vs. Boston, Hughes is 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA.
Making his third career start against the Red Sox, the Yankees’ number five starter is coming off a brilliant game against the White Sox in which he scattered four hits over seven innings of scoreless work. If Hughes were to win tonight, he would become the fourth Yankee starter to have recorded four wins this season.
On Saturday afternoon the Yankees will turn to their ace, CC Sabathia. The big man has a 5-5 lifetime record with a 3.62 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox. Last season, Sabathia pitched a number of big games against the Yanks’ archrivals, and showcased electric stuff in all of his starts vs. Boston.
In fact, on Aug. 8 last season, Sabathia worked 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball until Jacoby Ellsbury spoiled it with a two-out single. Sabathia tossed 7 2/3 innings that day and gave up no runs on just two hits. He walked two batters and struck out a season-high nine.
The Yankees went on to win that game 5-0 behind Sabathia’s gem.
Matching up against Sabathia is Clay Buchholz, who ironically enough faced him in that same game last August. Despite Boston’s struggles this year, Buchholz has been relatively consistent. The 25 year-old righty is 3-2 this season with an ERA of 2.97.
Opponents are hitting .261 against Buchholz this year and he has given up three earned runs or fewer in three of his four starts this year. However, he is 0-1 with a 5.74 ERA in his career against the Yankees, indicating that he has a rough time when he is under the bright lights of the greatest rivalry in sports.
Against an ace like Sabathia and with the way hitters like Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher have been swinging the bat lately, Buchholz may be in for a long afternoon on Saturday. But if he pitches the way he is capable of pitching and is on top of things as he can be, the Yankees could fall down on a hard day.
On Sunday night the weekend series will wrap up.
Boston will send 26 year-old left-hander Jon Lester to the mound in the series finale. So far this season, Lester is 2-2 with a 3.93 ERA.
His last start against the Yanks came on April 6 and he did not dazzle anyone. Lester tossed five innings the last time he faced New York and gave up four earned runs on five hits. He walked three batters and struck out four.
Lester has to be careful with some of the Yankee hitters. Alex Rodriguez has taken him deep twice in his career along with hitting a double. Derek Jeter owns a lifetime batting average over .300 against Lester and Mark Teixeira also has a homer off the Boston hurler.
A.J. Burnett will take the hill for the Yankees, hoping to notch his fifth win of 2010. Although he did not enjoy much success against the Red Sox last season, Burnett still holds a lifetime record of 5-2 with a 4.30 ERA in 13 career starts vs. Boston.
This season Burnett has started a lot more effectively, has an ERA under two at 1.99, and worked on getting his breaking ball back to dominant status. In his last start vs. Baltimore at home, Burnett puzzled the Orioles with his curveball for one unearned run over 7 1/3 innings. He struck out eight batters along the way.
If Burnett brings that kind of game with him, the BoSox are in trouble.
While the season is quite young and the division winner will not be determined for a good long time, the pressure is on for Boston. They must heed the words of a sage Yankee, who once said, “It gets dark early out there.”
This of course means that if the Red Sox do not rise to the challenge and hit their stride, it could quickly become a two-team race for the AL East–Tampa Bay and New York.
Also seen at Bleacher Report