The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will live on after the 2008 season, however, Yankee Stadium will not. Over the next month, the ‘House that Ruth Built’ will be seeing its final stretch of games before the doors close for good, highlighted by the three game series with the Red Sox which begins tonight. Over the history of the ballpark, the Red Sox and Yankees have met 770 times in New York during the regular season with the Yankees owning an impressive 483-283 advantage with four ties mixed in over the years.
“Because of the media and the fans, there’s more energy or electricity in the ballpark, but you can’t bring in a pitcher an inning earlier. They don’t give you two wins when you beat the Yankees, so you can’t do it differently,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said ahead of the three-game series.
Heading into tonight’s matchup, the Sox hold a five game lead over the Yankees in the wild-card race but with a total of six remaining meetings between the two teams, it is far too early to count the Bronx Bombers out of the race. Last year, it appeared the Yankees streak of 12 consecutive seasons of qualifying for the playoffs was in jeopardy but they played amazing baseball over the final six weeks to squeak in with the wild card berth. If the Yanks can not win this series against Boston, their streak of 13 consecutive playoff bids will certainly be at risk once again.
“If we put on a run here, there’s no question we can make it,” Hank Steinbrenner, a Yankees’ co-chairman, said Monday night at the team’s spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. “There’s no question with the number of games we have left, it’s possible.”
One Sox player who is really excited about the series is newcomer Jason Bay. The recently acquired left-fielder has never experienced a rivalry with such magnitude as he’s about to, but he’s ready for it.
“I’m looking forward to it. That’s what you play baseball for is that type of atmosphere, those type of games,” said Bay, acquired by Boston from Pittsburgh last month in the Manny Ramirez trade.
Tonight, the Yankees will send veteran southpaw Andy Pettitte (13-9, 4.17 ERA) to the mound to face the Sox veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-8, 3.67 ERA). The start will be Wakefield’s first since returning from the DL with stiffness in his lower back and right shoulder tenderness, causing him to miss two weeks of action.
Tomorrow’s matchup features two pitchers who have also been around the league for quite some time. The Yankees will let Sidney Ponson (7-4, 4.67 ERA) take the ball while Boston will hand it to Paul Byrd (8-11, 4.61 ERA). Ponson’s career began in 1998 while Byrd first pitched in the big leagues in 1995. The two have both logged over 1600 career innings pitched.
In the series finale, Mike Mussina (16-7, 3.45 ERA), will toss against Jon Lester (12-5, 3.49 ERA) in the last regular season game at Yankee Stadium between the two storied franchises. Lester is 2-0 in his young career against New York while Mussina boasts a lifetime record of 20-17 against Boston in 55 starts.
The series could make or break the last month for the Yankees but as far as the history of the stadium goes, Terry Francona just wants to focus on these three games and try to ignore the hype about everything else.
“I guess I felt more of that during the All-Star game because it was an All-Star game and you had time to maybe think about things,” he said. “When we’re playing the team, we’re just trying to beat them. That’s really what I care about. I don’t get too caught up in the other stuff.”
Tonight’s first pitch is at 7:05pm EST.