The Yankees play the first of three games against the Red Sox in Boston tonight. It will be crucial that the Yankees improve upon their dreadful 2-10 record against their rivals to the north, especially since they trail them by 1.5 games in the standings.
Boston comes into this series having won four out in their past two series against the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were out of the lineup last night with minor injuries, but tonight against the Red Sox only Jeter will make his return. Somewhat surprisingly, with Jeter and Rodriguez out of the lineup, the Yankees are 7-0 this season. When Rodriguez is out of the lineup and Jeter is playing, a bigger sample size because of AROD’s surgery, the team has a 24-17 record.
This proves how deep their lineup is and that their role players are able to step up like Nick Swisher, who has been on a home run binge recently with six out of his last eight hits being sent out of the park.
In order for the Yankees to continue their modest two-game winning streak, CC Sebathia, will have to pitch like he has against everybody else in the contest tonight. He has not performed anything like the CY Young candidate that he is against the Red Sox this season.
Sebathia has 199 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA on the season, but in his last start against the Red Sox he gave up seven runs in six innings. In his four starts against the Yankees’ bitter rivals during this campaign he has a 7.20 ERA, having allowed 33 hits in 25 innings. This will need to improve as he is the ace and will be relied upon to defeat the Red Sox in the playoffs as well.
John Lackey will be taking the hill for the Red Sox as his execution has been severely lacking this season compared to when he pitched for the Angels. Lackey has a 12-9 record, which is not that bad, but he sports an ERA of 5.98. The Yankees bats should be happy to see that number coming into the game.
Two more factors going against Lackey in this game are that in his career versus the Bronx Bombers, 21 starts, he has a 4.67 ERA, and he pitches worse at home (6.16 ERA) than he does on the road (5.75 ERA) even though neither are numbers to write home about.
On Wednesday, Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees while Red Sox ace Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA) will take the hill. Hughes’ numbers are not nearly as underwhelming since coming off the disabled list as he has allowed two runs or less in five of his seven starts. However, in those other two games he allowed an alarming 13 runs combined. If Hughes can allow three runs the Yankees will be competitive against Beckett.
In the series finale, on Thursday, the enigma that is A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.31 ERA) will take on Boston’s second best pitcher, left Jon Lester (14-6, 3.09 ERA). Burnett has allowed an alarming 16 runs in his last two starts and deserves to be demoted. We will have to see as a decision should be coming soon.
It will be crucial that the three starters for the Yankees slow down Adrian Gonzalez (.345 and 103 RBI) and Jacoby Ellsbury (23 homers, 95 runs and 35 steals) who are both having unbelievable seasons.
MVP candidate Curtis Granderson is not hitting well this season against the Red Sox but he does have a solid .318 average against Lackey, for his career. Cano is hitting .289 during his career against Lackey but is also struggling against the Red Sox this season. Brett Gardner continues the same pattern as Cano and Granderson.
They Yankees need to at least win this game since most of the team has impressive numbers against Lackey. Hopefully they can steal one of the others against Beckett or Lester. They will also need future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, to not blow a save during this series like he has had somewhat of a propensity of doing in the past.