Red Sox-Yankees

As of Thursday morning, the Sox stand seven games behind the New York Yankees in the division race and one game ahead of the Rangers in the Wild Card. The Yankees are cruising right now, with a great opportunity to seal up the division this weekend. The Sox desperately need to win the series to stay in the hunt; a sweep, while unlikely, would put them firmly back in contention, with one more series in late September.
The upcoming set won’t be an easy one. A tough break for Boston, the Yankees bring their two best starters to the hill. Key off-season acquisitions A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia have been stellar this season, forming the second-best 1-2 punch in the AL East. Unfortunately for the Sox, only Beckett will throw against the Yanks, as Lester goes Thursday against Toronto.
Game 1:
The series opener on Friday looks to be a tough battle for the Sox, as the underperforming Brad Penny (5.22 ERA, 4.57 FIP) takes on crafty veteran Andy Pettitte (4.09 ERA, 4.13 FIP).
Though Pettitte has been the better pitcher this year, the Sox have one of the league’s best attacks against left-handers, posting a .266/.354/.461 line. New York has been excellent against righties, however, with a .271/.351/.464 line. Then again, they’ve blasted every pitcher they’ve faced this year, so you should take what you can get with this team.
This one will be tough for the Sox, but it’s a winnable game.
Projected Score: Yankees 5.75 Red Sox 4.68
Game 2:
The middle game of this series is kind of like the middle child of the group. Game One is the opener, so you’re excited about something new. Game Three is the baby and carries the most promise. Game Two of this Sox-Yanks installment is nothing spectacular, but its still part of the family.
Junichi Tazawa hopes to build on a rough last start against Texas, when he went 5 innings with 3 walks and 0 strikeouts. He has the stuff to succeed, but this will be a difficult test for the young Japanese import.
A.J. Burnett brings a great line to the game, with a 3.69 ERA and 4.33 FIP. While Burnett possesses some of the best raw stuff in the league, he has been weak at times this year.
His strikeout rate decreased this season to 7.91 K/9, down from 9.39 in 2008 and 9.56 in 2007. His command has been off at times as well, as he has posted a 4.39 BB/9. While his big curveball is still there, watch his fastball location closely. If it falters, it could be a long day.
Expect a lot of runs.
Projected Score: Yankees: 6.06 Red Sox: 4.70
Game 3:
Don’t miss this matchup. If your girlfriend wants to go out, go to a sports bar. If your wife wants to go to a movie, catch the late showing. Two of the American League’s best starters take the hill in the biggest rivalry in all of sports: Sox ace Josh Beckett (3.38 ERA; 3.33 FIP) versus Yankee’s Number One starter C.C. Sabathia (3.58 ERA; 3.69 FIP).
There have been few better matchups of this season.
Beckett seeks to continue a superb 2009, which has been one of the best seasons of his career. Excellence is now expected from him, and he never seems to disappoint. Sunday will be a very important start for both Beckett and the team, as the Sox starters are outmatched in both Games 1 and 2. Beck needs to bring his best stuff and deliver a win, or the Yankees may be popping champagne in August.
While Sabathia comes off an outstanding 2008, he has lacked his trademark dominance from the previous year. His vaunted slider has been hittable this season and his overall contact rate has returned to his career average of around 77%. Still, Sabathia is a force to be reckoned with and will give the Sox fits.
This is one of the best matchups of 2009.
Projected Score: Yankees 4.54 Red Sox 4.20
While the projections favor the Yankees in all three games, expect the Sox to take one. Though the Yankees have the definite edge in the first two contests, Game Three is very much a toss-up as the Sox have the better starter.
This series should go better than the previous matchup between the two teams, as the Yankees lefties won’t be able to hit pop-ups into the wind tunnel that miraculously jump the right field fence. However, the on-going story of the Sox’ defensive ineptitude may put all three games out of reach.
In other news…
-Sox starter Tim Wakefield is expected to make one more rehab start on Friday before being reevaluated, reports ESPN. If he can return healthy, the Sox’ playoff chances will improve dramatically.
-Clay Buchholz had the kind of start Sox fans have been waiting for on Wednesday, showing sharp command and great stuff. Allowing just one walk against four strikeouts, this is a great start for the young pitcher to build on.
-The Texas Rangers acquired future Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez to “help” at catcher. Don’t expect much from him, reports The Hardball Times’ Pat Andriola. Pudge’s bat has been anemic all year.
-Former Red Sox starter John Smoltz has signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is expected to fill in as the number five starter, with a possible shift to the bullpen in the future, reports ESPN.
Root hard for the home team this weekend, as this is a very important series and one the Sox need to win. The matchups aren’t there, but a few good performances can put Boston over the top. Plan your weekend, put on your rally cap, and tune in to your favorite Sox cable provider. This should be a good one.