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The Red Sox head to the Bronx for their final road games of the regular season with a chance to put the East Division title in play. The Yankees are already in the postseason and, barring a historic collapse, the Red Sox will be as well. The Yankees swept the last series in the Bronx as part of their hottest streak of the season, while the Red Sox were sliding, which seemed to put them out of the picture in the East.
However, recently the Red Sox have been the hot team and the Yankees have not played their best ball and watched their division lead slowly and quietly shrink. The Red Sox cannot seize the East lead this weekend, but can close the gap and make the Yankees sweat, even if the Bombers eventually win it.
However, with the Red Sox recent playoff success against the Angels, should the Red Sox even want to sacrifice that meeting for the East title? The Red Sox are 9-6 against New York this season, but only 2-4 at the new stadium. The Yankees have made up a lot of ground considering the Sox were 8-0 against them to start the season?
The series opener will be the pivotal one with the team’s aces, Jon Lester (3 GS, 1-0, 20.0 IP, 6 ER, 18 H, 24 K, 5 BB vs NYY) and CC Sabathia (2-1, 21.1 IP, 7 ER, 16 H, 23 K, 4 BB vs BOS), facing off. Lester has not taken a loss in his last 11 starts and has been hot since June, overcoming a very slow start. Sabathia is 8-0 over his past 10 starts and his 18 wins lead the American League.
The resurgent Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 11.1 IP, 3 ER, 11 H, 10 K, 4 BB since return) will face the Yankees for the first time this season against Joba Chamberlain (3 GS, 1-1, 16.0 IP, 9 ER, 21 H, 19 K, 13 BB vs BOS). The Yankees have succeeded in limiting Chamberlain’s innings, but at what cost recently? He has not pitched more than four innings in any of his last six starts, going 0-3 with a 9.45 ERA and 2.05 WHIP.
Finally, Paul Byrd (1-2, 6.04 ERA, 1.89 in 2009), coming off an awful outing in Kansas City, will match Andy Pettitte (3 GS, 1-1, 18.0 IP, 8 ER, 18 H, 14 K, 8 BB vs BOS). Pettitte had won five starts in a row before his shoulder forced him to miss a start, but he took the loss in his return start against the Angels, despite appearing ok.
The Yankees biggest bats in the series thus far are two familiar names: former Sox Johnny Damon and almost Sox Mark Teixiera. Damon’s six home runs against the Red Sox are a team-high, but he is only hitting .254 against his former mates with 10 RBI and 13 runs. Tex is hitting .344 with five home runs, five doubles, 11 batted in and 13 runs. His 12 walks gives him an on-base percentage of .467 and he is slugging .672 (1.139 OPS) against Boston. Jorge Posada (.400, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 6 R), Hideki Matsui (.340, 4, 12, 7) and Robinson Cano (.309, 3, 10, 7) are also having a good year in the rivalry.
In the launching pad that is the new Yankee Stadium, the bullpens probably figure to see a lot of innings which is worrisome to both managers, Terry Francona and Joe Girardi. Aside from the rivalry, this series probably does not hold much meaning unless the Red Sox sweep and open the door to the East title. However, if Lester cannot win the first game, the Yankees could be looking to roll to a sweep, exactly what they brought in Sabathia for. Dice-K will be under the microscope for the first real time since returning. The Red Sox probably will be settling for the Wild Card after dropping two of three and heading home to ready for the Angels.