After sweeping the Chicago White Sox, who are in last place in the American League Central, the Yankees will now conclude their 10-game home stand with a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox. It is always a big series when they play their rivals to the north, but this series will have even more significance because they are only 2.5 games out of the wild-card.
The Red Sox have won five out of their past six games. They have virtually looked up the division (the Yankees have a chance since they play them seven more times) and are now playing for home field advantage in the playoffs. Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez on Sunday Night Baseball in the last game that the two teams played and there has been some talk of possible retaliation by the Yankees. The best retaliation that the Bronx Bombers could show at this point is to win three our four games in this series.
Since the Yankees last played the Red Sox they have gone 11-5. It is possible that the game that they came back to win after A-Rod was intentionally hit in the second inning ignited the team but it is also likely that the health of Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter and continued dominance of Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano has spurred the much needed hot streak.
With their game tonight, the Yankees start a streak of 14 games against division rivals. They will play the Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays during these crucial games. A pitcher that will be key during this stretch is Ivan Nova. That Yankees would not be where they are right now without him. Has a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts since returning from the minors on June 23. The command of his curveball and fastball have been much improved. He will start tonight against the Red Sox.
Jake Peavy, who has never defeated the Yankees in his career, will pitch for the Red Sox tonight. He has pitched very well since coming to Boston from the White Sox in the beginning of August.
After a 4-0 record in August, Nova was named the American League pitcher of the month. August also included his first complete-game shutout of his career.
Many offensive players have been playing well of late for the Yankees. Robinson Cano is four for his last eight and going back further has a .367 batting average since August 14. He has driven in 18 runs in the past 20 games. Brett Gardner, who has been a catalyst at the top of the lineup, has a .360 average over the past week with five doubles. Eduardo Nunez, who is not playing tonight, has an outstanding .444 average over the last seven days.
Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.01 ERA), who has pitched much better recently, will matchup against Felix Doubront, (10-6, 3.89 ERA) on Friday. David Huff (2-0, 3.32 ERA), who has pitched very well out of the bullpen, will make his first start for the Yankees on Saturday, replacing Phil Hughes. For Boston, John Lackey (8-12, 3.22 ERA) will get the start on Saturday. In the series finale, on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda, who has been the team’s ace this season, will matchup against Jon Lester (13-8, 3.88 ERA).
If the Yankees can win three out of four games it would put them in great position going into their final 19 games of the season.