Yankees-Red Sox Series Preview: Streaking Rivals Square Off

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Yankees-Red Sox Series Preview: Streaking Rivals Square Off
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The Yankees have won four straight, but their arch rivals, the Red Sox, have also won four in a row to climb back over .500 for the first time since beating New York on Opening Night to go 1-0.

That was the only game Boston won in the three-game series, and the Sox went on a huge slide from there, hitting rock bottom on May 2, when they fell to 11-14 after being swept by the last-place Orioles.

But Terry Francona's bunch bounced back by scoring 36 runs in a four-game sweep of the Angels.

Offense hasn't been the problem for Boston, which ranks first in the American League in slugging at .467. It's been the vaunted pitching staff that has struggled, posting a 4.68 ERA, third worst in the AL.

That staff now goes up against the Yankees, which lead the league with an .822 OPS, in a three-game set at Fenway Park.

Let's taking a look at the pitching matchups.

 

Friday, May 7Phil Hughes (3-0, 1.44) vs. Josh Beckett (1-0, 6.31)

Hughes has been terrific over his last three starts, but none of those have been against an offense ranked in the top half of the American League in batting. His next opponent, the Boston Red Sox, are fourth in that category at .275.

The right-hander is 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA in eight career games (two starts) against the Sox, and he is 0-1 with a 10.29 in seven innings at Fenway Park.

David Ortiz could break out of his season-long slump, if only for one game, as he has reached base in all of his four lifetime plate appearances versus Hughes (two doubles two walks).

J.D. Drew (2-for-3), Victor Martinez (2-for-4) and Mike Lowell (2-for-5, HR) have also had success facing the 23-year-old, albeit in limited at-bats.

Dustin Pedroia, on the other hand, is 0-for-8 with two strikeouts.

Beckett, meanwhile, is off to a slow start, but he did show signs of improvement in his latest outing against the Orioles, when he allowed only two runs in seven innings.

The righty is 9-5 with a 5.51 ERA in 18 starts versus the Yankees, with his last outing against them coming on April 4, when he yielded five runs in 4 2/3 innings. 

Beckett has dominated Mark Teixeira (3-for-23, .130, 8 K's) and Brett Gardner (2-for-12, .167, 4 K's).  

However, Derek Jeter (17-for-54, .315), the red-hot Robinson Cano (17-for-47, .362, 10 RBIs) and the returning Jorge Posada (11-for-33, .333) have all gotten to Beckett over the years.

 

Saturday, May 8CC Sabathia (4-1, 2.74) vs. Clay Buchholz (3-2, 2.97)

Sabathia continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, ranking second in the AL in wins, 11th in ERA, second in innings pitched (42 2/3), sixth in WHIP (1.05) and first in complete games with two.

The big lefty's only bad start of the season, though, came on Opening Night at Fenway Park, where he surrendered five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

In 12 career starts against the Red Sox, Sabathia is 5-5 with a 3.62 ERA, and he is 2-2 with a 3.86 in Boston.

Kevin Youkilis (7-for-20, .350) and Marco Scutaro (7-for-19, .368) are the only Red Sox hitters with real success against the 29-year-old, who has held down Ortiz (7-for-29, .241), Pedroia (1-for-17, .059, 6 K's), Jason Varitek (2-for-16, .125), Adrian Beltre (1-for-14, .071, 6 K's) and Martinez (3-for-14, .214).

Buckhholz had his worst start of the season on Monday, when he gave up four runs in 5 2/3 frames against the Angels, but he earned the victory thanks to 17 runs of support from his lineup.

The right-hander is 0-1 with a 5.74 ERA in three starts versus the Bronx Bombers, and he hasn't been able to figure out Cano, who is 3-for-8 (.375) with a double off him.

Posada, however, is 0-for-4 against the 25-year-old, so this may be a good day to bench the ailing catcher in an afternoon game following a night game.

 

Sunday, May 9 - A.J. Burnett (4-0, 1.99) vs. Jon Lester (2-2, 3.93)

It's difficult to be the best pitcher on a staff that includes Sabathia, but as of right now, Burnett is just that for the Yankees. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last two starts (both against Baltimore) and his 1.16 WHIP is pretty good for a guy who has a history of struggling with control.

The right-hander picked up a no-decision in New York's 6-4 victory over Boston on April 6, when he was touched up for three earned in five innings.

Burnett is 5-2 with a 4.30 ERA in 13 lifetime starts versus the Red Sox, including a 3-2 record and 5.36 mark in seven games at Fenway Park.

Youkilis (7-for-29, .241, 7 K's), Varitek (5-for-24, .208, 9 K's) and Lowell (4-for-20, .200) have all struggled when facing the 33-year-old, and only Martinez (6-for-19, .316, 6 walks) has an average higher than .300 off him.

After a rough trio of starts to open the year, Lester has allowed just one run on 10 hits, while striking out 23 over his last three games, a span of 20 2/3 innings.

One of those bad starts, however, came against the Yankees on April 6, when the southpaw lasted only five innings and surrendered four runs.

Lester is 3-1 with a 4.19 ERA in nine lifetime starts versus New York, and he has tamed Teixeira (4-for-17, .235, 5 K's), Nick Swisher (3-for-16, .188, 6 K's) and Posada (3-for-15, .200, 5 K's).

Jeter, on the other hand, is 10-for-27 (.370) and expect Marcus Thames (1-for-3, HR, 2 RBIs, walk) to get the start on Sunday.

 

Follow me on Twitter at JordanHarrison .

Jordan Schwartz is one of Bleacher Report's New York Yankees and College Basketball Featured Columnists. His book Memoirs of the Unaccomplished Man is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and authorhouse.com.

Jordan can be reached at jordanschwartz2003@yahoo.com

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