Baseball season may have officially started two weeks ago in Tokyo, Japan but for Red Sox fans, this weekend’s series vs. the New York Yankees is what it’s all about. It’s a new year, and for the first time in a long time Red Sox Nation feels like they finally have the edge on the Bronx Bombers. With not one, but two World Series championship rings over the past four seasons, a growing international fan base and an ownership that has made it a precedent to restore and preserve Fenway Park it is very clear why Sox fans are on top of the world.
Things in New York have not been so cheery and upbeat. Their 26th World Series championship came way back in the year 2000. Their reign as champions at the top of the AL East is history, just like their former and future hall of fame manager Joe Torre who did not resign with the club after the 2007 campaign. This season will also be Yankee Stadiums last, a new ball park project is well underway and costing the organization almost $1 billion dollars to construct.
As the Yankees venture into Boston for the three game series, both clubs boast a mediocre (5-5) record on the year and are coming off of wins last night. The Sox had an offensive outburst in their 12-6 victory over the Tigers while the Yankees received a solid pitching performance from starting pitcher Andy Pettitte in their 6-1 win over the Royals.
In tonight’s game, Red Sox rookie Clay Buchholtz will take the hill against Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang. Buchholtz has never faced the Yankees before and looked shaky in his season debut over last weekend in Toronto allowing four runs, six hits and two walks in a 10-2 loss. Wang in 2-0 on the season with an impressive 1.38 ERA, but over his career is only 5-5 vs. Boston with a 4.56 ERA.
Saturday’s match up will feature Josh Beckett going against veteran Mike Mussina. The ‘Moose’ struggled in his first start of the season but rebounded with a good second outing and stands with a 1-1 mark heading into Fenway. After last year’s performance, Beckett had high expectations by many to be the ace of his staff but after suffering from back spasms that sidelined him on the DL to start the season, he opened up with a very poor outing vs. Toronto on April 6th in which he allowed five earned runs on three hits, one of which a monster homerun by Vernon Wells, and walked five Blue Jays in the 10-2 loss. The start will be Beckett’s first at Fenway since winning Game 1 of the World Series vs. Colorado back in October 2007.
In the series finale, Dice-K Matsuzaka will be on the mound pitching against highly touted rookie Phil Hughes. In his last start, Hughes had some control issues walking 4 Royals and surrendering 6 hits in only 3 innings of work in the Yankees 5-2 loss on April 8th. Matsuzaka has been very good in his previous two outings allowing only 1 run over 13 1/3 innings while striking out 16 in that period.
Both clubs have are a little banged up from injuries right now. The Sox placed All-Star 3B Mike Lowell on the 15-day DL with a sprained left-thumb that he suffered against during the Tigers series. Kevin Youkilis will transition back to third for the time being and Sean Casey will fill the void at first. The Yankees were without SS Derek Jeter in the Royals series, he was sidelined with a strained left-quadriceps. He is listed as day-to-day and is unsure about his availability throughout the weekend.
It’s only April, but both teams would like to jump ahead in the season series early. In 2005 we saw just how important the head to head match up was when both teams finished with identical records of 95-67. The Yankees were crowned the division champs because of a 10-9 advantage vs. the Sox during the regular season.
Some numbers and stats to ponder on heading into the weekend:
-New York won last year’s series 10-8, winning eight of the final 10 meetings after Boston had captured six of the first eight games.
-Boston’s two big guns have enjoyed success against Yankees pitcher Chien- Ming Wang. Manny Ramirez is 13-for-22 (.591), while David Ortiz is 15-for-30 (.500). Each player has two homers off of the right-hander.
-Alex Rodriguez has 37 career HR’s, 99 RBI’s and 168 hits against Boston.
Tickets are still available for all games this weekend!