Boston is currently 7.5 games back in the AL East standings while the Bronx Bombers find themselves sitting atop the division with a five game lead over the second place Baltimore Orioles.
New York enters this weekend's series after a tough three-game road trip in Tampa Bay that saw them salvage one game against the Rays. Overall, New York is 6-4 over the last 10 games while the Red Sox are coming off of a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics, making them 4-6 over their last 10 games.
There's no better way to end the first half of the MLB season with a Yanks vs. Sox showdown at Fenway.
Here's a complete rundown of the weekend series:
When: Friday, July 6 at 7:10 p.m., Saturday, July 7 doubleheader at 12:35 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. and Sunday, July 8 at 8:05 p.m. All times EST.
Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
Watch: YES Network for Yankees, NESN for Red Sox; The MLB Network will carry Friday and both of Saturday's games while ESPN will air the Sunday night game as part of their Sunday Night Baseball special.
The Yankees will travel to Boston without two of their top southpaws, CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.
Sabathia was placed on the 15-day DL (via ESPN) due to a strained muscle in his left leg. According to manager Joe Girardi (via ESPN), Sabathia should miss just two starters and return following the All-Star break.
According to Yahoo Sports, the Yankees' speedy outfielder, Brett Gardner, hopes to return by mid-to-late July after suffering multiple setbacks on his way back from a right elbow injury.
For the Red Sox, they'll be without pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a strain of the right trapezius (neck) muscle (via ESPN).
Boston could also be without rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who injured his left hamstring on July 1 in Seattle. Middlebrooks hasn't played since the injury, but according to the Boston Herald, wants to be on the field when the Yankees come to town on Friday.
Dustin Pedroia was held out of Wednesday's game against the Oakland A's after feeling some soreness in his right thumb, an injury that has plagued him in the past. Per ESPN, Bobby Valentine believes Pedroia will be ready for Friday's series opener against the Yankees.
The Boston Herald is also reporting that both Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury have been rehabbing with the Portland Sea Dogs in hopes of returning after the All-Star break.
Friday, July 6 at 7:10 p.m. EST: Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.17 ERA) vs. Josh Beckett (4-7, 4.06 ERA)
Kuroda has been pitching sensationally of late, as evidenced by his 4-1 record and 1.98 ERA during the month of June.
He pitched at least seven innings in five out of six starts in June, taking a lot of pressure off of New York's bullpen.
Kuroda has stepped up and pitched admirably to anchor a staff that's missing two of its best starters.
The 37-year-old Japan native will be opposed by Josh Beckett, who like a lot of Red Sox starters this season, has struggled.
Beckett's last win came on May 20 at the Philadelphia Phillies. In three June starts, Beckett is 0-2 with a 3.43 ERA and has seen his offense labor to score runs for him.
Collectively, the Red Sox offense scored just four runs for Beckett in his three starts during the month of June.
Since 2009, Beckett is 7-3 against the Yankees, but sports a 5.38 ERA against them.
Saturday, July 7 at 12:35 p.m. EST: Phil Hughes (9-6, 4.29 ERA) vs. Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.51 ERA)
While his ERA may not indicate it, Phil Hughes has pitched a lot better of late.
On May 1, Hughes had an ERA of 7.48, and after going 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA during June, he's now got it down to a respectable 4.29.
Hughes is coming off of a win against the Chicago White Sox in which he went eight innings, allowing just two earned runs on six hits with eight strike outs.
The Red Sox have had Hughes' number in the past, as he's 2-4 with a 5.73 ERA since 2009 against Boston.
Franklin Morales will get the ball for Boston in a spot start for the injured Dice-K.
The Yankees haven't seen much of Morales, which could work out in Boston's favor.
Morales earned his first win of the season in a starting role against the Atlanta Braves when he held them to two earned runs on seven hits over six innings of work while fanning eight Braves.
Saturday, July 7 at 7:15 p.m. EST: Freddy Garcia (2-2, 5.94 ERA) vs. Felix Doubront (8-4, 4.42 ERA)
Freddy Garcia is back in the starting rotation with injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte.
Garcia made his first start in more than a month on July 2 at Tampa Bay, going 5.1 innings and surrendering five hits and two earned runs in a no decision.
Garcia will be seeking revenge against Boston, as they hammered him on April 21 in Fenway to the tune of five runs on seven hits in a mere 1.2 IP.
Opposing Garcia will be Felix Doubront for the Sox.
The 24-year-old lefty has arguably been the best Red Sox pitcher this season, leading the staff in strikeouts and tying with teammate Clay Buchholz for most wins on the team.
Doubront pitched well against New York on April 21, scattering four hits and one run over six innings on his way to a no decision.
Sunday, July 8 at 8:05 p.m. EST: Ivan Nova (9-3, 4.05 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (5-5, 4.33 ERA)
ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball presents arguably the best pitching matchup of the series, as behind Sabathia, Nova looks to be the anchor of the staff.
Before earning a loss on July 3 at Tampa Bay in which he surrendered three earned runs on seven hits over six innings, Nova was 3-0 during the month of June with a 1.26 ERA.
He earned a win against the Red Sox on April 20 in Fenway in which he scattered two earned runs on seven hits over the course of six innings.
Boston will send Lester to the mound, who hasn't looked himself this season.
After a slow start, Lester has improved since April. He went 2-1 with a 4.01 ERA during the month of June and pitched well in a loss to the Oakland A's on July 3, where he went 6.2 innings and gave up just one earned run on four hits.
Lester has yet to face the Bronx Bombers this season, but was 2-2 last season with an inflated 6.66 ERA against New York in 2011, as the Yankees hit .314 off of the 28-year-old lefty.
Who I'm Watching
Yankees: I'm watching Robinson Cano for New York. The All-Star second baseman has been scorching of late, as he hit .340 in June with 11 long balls, 21 RBI and 21 runs scored.
I'll also be looking out for Alex Rodriguez, who has struggled to produce for New York. Rodriguez is hitting just .266 on the season with just 36 RBI, including .232 during the month of June.
Red Sox: For Boston, I'm keeping my eye on notorious Yankee killer David Ortiz. Ortiz recently made comments (via ESPN) about being fed up with the one-year deals offered to him by the Red Sox, and I think he'll be looking to take his frustration out on the Yanks.
Adrian Gonzalez—.275/.323/.404 on the season—is another player to watch, as he has a 15-game hitting streak going and will look to keep it alive this weekend.
This is going to be your typical Yankees vs. Red Sox series, with balls flying around Fenway and ERAs rising.
Boston's offense has been absent of late, but with Sabathia and Pettitte both missing from the Yankees' rotation, New York lacks an ace on the road.
I think the Yanks and Sox split this series 2-2 heading into the All-Star break, with Kuroda besting Beckett and Nova getting the best of Lester.
Enjoy this great weekend of baseball.
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