It's fitting that in a year where the Yankees have blown what once was a comfortable lead in the division that they'll face a team who knows what blowing a division title is all about. The Yankees take on their hated long-time rival, the Boston Red Sox, for the final three games of the season at Yankee Stadium with so much at stake.
The Red Sox squandered a sure posteason berth down the stretch last season and missed out on the playoffs. The Yankees did just clinch a playoff berth with the Angels' loss to Texas last night but a 10-game lead in mid-July has been washed away and the Yankees are dead-even with Baltimore entering the final week of the season.
The Yankees need to throttle Boston or they may be looking at a precarious scenario that could see them playing a dangerous one-game playoff battle against Oakland all the way on the west coast with everything at stake, if they don't take care of business this week against Boston.
The Red Sox looked lifeless, punchless and borderline disinterested in getting swept by the Orioles this past weekend in Baltimore. Some Yankees fans had to wonder if they're more vested in seeing the O's advance while doing anything they can to prevent the Yankees from winning the division.
At least that's how it may seem purely by virtue of how the pitching matchups stacked up for their previous series and now this finale at Yankee Stadium. The Sox will send out Clay Bucholz, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka to face the Yankees.
While none of the three pitchers have had good seasons, they are all capable of highly efficient games and should be viewed by the Yankees as a significant challenge considering how much is on the line. Lester has befuddled the Yankees a few times this season.
The Bombers will send their staff ace to the bump on Monday night in CC Sabathia, followed by David Phelps and then Hiroki Kuroda on Wednesday night.
The Yankees are 10-5 against Boston this season, having most recently taken two of three at Fenway Park in mid-September. The Red Sox come in with nothing to play for other than personal pride and the chance to give their fans something to cheer about by putting a dent in the Yankees' postseason hopes.
The 2012 season did not start out with low expectations for the Sox—in fact, quite the opposite. Boston was considered to be a front-runner to win the division. Injuries, clubhouse discord and poor performance has derailed the Sox season.
Ownership also blew up what were the Red Sox earlier this summer in the deal that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles.
The Red Sox have been decimated by injuries—from Jacoby Ellsbury to Dustin Pedroia to Will Middlebrooks—and it’s shown in their record. David Ortiz was having an exceptional season, once again hitting over .300 and belting 23 home runs, until an Achilles strain sidelined him for the rest of the year.
Cody Ross and Pedroia have been bright spots in the lineup, but Adrian Gonzalez had been a disappointment at first base, particularly when you consider Boston was paying him just under $22M. Jacoby Ellsbury is just hoping this season will end. Ellsbury was one of the best players in all of baseball last season.
What a difference a year makes. This season, Ellsbury has missed two months due to injury and since coming back has been a lackluster hitter for Boston. Yet for all of Boston's faults, they're still incredibly 12th in the majors in team OPS. The Yankees should not take them for granted.
The Yankees are hoping to pounce on their prey and beat down the Red Sox at Fenway by building off what was a big-time offensive effort in the late innings yesterday in Toronto. The Bombers fought back from a 5-1 deficit and the whole comeback was completed without a home run.
Eric Chavez belted a solo shot early in the game for the Yankees first run but that was not part of the later inning fireworks.
Russell Martin has come alive for the Yankees at the right time as they near another AL East division crown. The Yankees can only hope that A-Rod's dormant bat comes alive and Mark Teixeira's new addition to the lineup will make a big difference
When baseball’s biggest rivalry comes up, you can throw out the proverbial records. The Yankees have to feel better about themselves after such an inspiring, gritty comeback in Toronto yesterday. Surely, the Bombers are hoping that was the extra lift they needed to keep scoring plenty of runs over the next several days.
Here is an offensive tale of the tape and a breakdown of the pitching matchups:
By the Numbers (Major League rank through games played on October 30th):
Team OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage):
Red Sox: 12th
Team Home Runs:
Red Sox: 14th
Red Sox: 7th
Red Sox: 9th
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP):
Red Sox: 5th
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.306 BA, .904 OPS, 30 HR, 85 RBI); Derek Jeter (.318 BA, .795OPS, 15 HR, 58 RBI); Curtis Granderson (.226 BA, .792 OPS, 40 HR, 100 RBI)
Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia (.288 BA, .790 OPS, 15 HR, 64 RBI); Cody Ross (.269 BA, .818 OPS, 22 HR, 79 RBI); Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.225 BA, .755 OPS, 25 HR, 58 RBI)