All of Boston is buzzing in anticipation of this weekend's divisional showdown with the New York Yankees. New Englanders everywhere are feeling confident that their beloved Red Sox can pull off a third consecutive series sweep of the Bronx Bombers.
If the Red Sox were able to pull off a sweep, this weekend, the Yankees would be in jeopardy of suffering the worst season long schlacking by the Red Sox ever.
Not since 1912, when the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in 12 consecutive games, which included a five game home sweep of the Yankees at Hilltop Park (outscoring them 54-12), would the rivalry have been this lopsided.
But, with the division up for grabs, both teams are more concerned about who will control the American League East after the series is over, than they are about history.
Still, this weekend's series will likely be nothing short of another classic Red Sox, Yankees showdown.
There are always fireworks.
Friday night's series opener features a pitching duel between Red Sox Starter Jon Lester and Yankees Starter Bartolo Colon.
RED SOX: Jon Lester
Lester currently leads the Red Sox rotation in wins with an (11-4) record. In seven home starts this season Lester is 3-2, with a 4.39 ERA and 48 SO. The Red Sox have done an amazing job of locking down the base paths allowing only eight stolen bases when he is on the mound.
The Yankees who lead the American League in stolen bases (110) will need to be leery on the base paths. If the Yankees hope to put pressure on Lester early then they will need to take advantage of their speed. Stolen bases will be a key to the Yankees scoring runs in this match-up.
This season Lester has struggled to stay in control of the pitch count. He has been pulled, after the sixth inning, seven times this season for exceeding his limit.
If the Yankees hope to score early, and often, then they will need to force Lester to throw strikes by working the count. The Red Sox left-hander is known to get flustered after several long at-bats so utilizing plate disciple will be key to cracking him.
Without a complete game all season the Yankees are sure to see the Red Sox bullpen.
Note: The Yankees are 24-9 this season against left handed pitchers.
YANKEES: Bartolo Colon
The Yankees 38-year-old right-hander has been key to the team's continued success. Colon in 10 road starts this season is 3-3, with a 2.83 ERA and 55 SO. During that stretch Colon pitched a complete game shutout against the Oakland Athletics.
In two appearances this season, against the Red Sox, Colon has given up 10 hits, four walks, and three earned runs, while striking out nine over 10 1/3 innings.
Despite Colon's success on the road this season he has struggled against heavy hitting teams like the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers and the Tampa Rays. With the Red Sox leading baseball in all major hitting categories Colon could be in trouble.
It doesn't take much work to figure out what the Red Sox need to do against Colon. Boston just needs to do what they do best and that is hit.
If the Red Sox can't find away to crack Colon they can expect to see the Yankee bullpen by the seventh inning because Colon doesn't seem to have the stamina that he used to. The bullpen has struggled against the Red Sox this year so expect Boston to put up some late runs.
Don't be surprised if you see Mariano Rivera, even in a tied game.
EXPECTED OUTCOME: YANKEES WIN 3-2
Saturday, game two of the series, features Yankees ace C.C. Sabathia against Red Sox right-hander Jon Lackey.
YANKEES: C.C. Sabathia
Sabathia is having a CY Young award winning season thus far posting a 16-5 record, with a 2.55 ERA and 162 SO. Despite all of his success, thus far, three of Sabathia's losses this season have come against the Red Sox. In three starts, against Boston, Sabathia has given up 24 hits, nine walks, and 13 earned runs while striking out 15 batter over 19 innings.
He has struggled to keep command of his pitches, often finding himself behind in the count. With one-fifth of his walks this season coming against Red Sox hitters Sabathia has met his undoing at the heart of the Boston order.
All season long the Red Sox have epitomized strong plate discipline. For Sabathia to prevent Boston from getting ahead in the count, on base and ultimately from scoring runs he will need to be able to paint the corners and have his change-up working early.
If the Yankee infield doesn't back up Sabathia with solid defense the Red Sox will score.
RED SOX: John Lackey
Lackey has struggled all season long with the Red Sox. Posting a 9-8 record, with a 6.23 ERA and 71 SO Lackey has been arguably one of baseball's worst starters this season. But despite his woes, Lackey is 4-0 in his last 4 starts with a 3.41 ERA making a strong recovery at the most crucial time of the season.
In his one start against the Yankees, this season, Lackey gave up seven hits and six earned runs striking out just two over five innings.
The Yankees need to take a page from the Red Sox playbook and utilize sound plate discipline. If the Yankees wait for their pitches they will certainly score runs.
No reason to fear a shutout here -- Lackey will make a mistake.
EXPECTED OUTCOME: YANKEES WIN: 7-4
ESPN's Sunday Night Game of the Week features Boston's Josh Beckett in a battle with the Yankees' Freddy Garcia.
RED SOX: Josh Beckett
In 21 starts, with Beckett on the mound, the Red Sox have only lost five times this season. Just by looking at Beckett's record (9-4) no one would ever know that he has been throwing lights out. Ironically, had the Red Sox provided Beckett with their normal run support he would boast a more appropriate record of 14-4.
Beckett has more than likely been snubbed from Cy Young talk around the league because of his record. But, take one glance at his ERA (2.20 / 2nd AL), WHIP (0.92 / 2nd AL), SO (122), and hits allowed (91 / 1st AL) and its obvious Beckett deserves respect.
In his three starts against the Yankees, this year, Beckett has been nearly flawless. In 21 innings he struck out 23 batters surrendering just 10 hits and two earned runs.
If Beckett's cutter and change up are working, as usual, the Yankees could get shut out. He will have to be less than his best for the Yankees to hope to score at all.
If they are fortunate enough to get runners on then stolen bases will be essential to scoring against Beckett. Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Eduardo Nunez and Derek Jeter will all have to be looking to swipe second base. Also, expect Gardner to try for third every time he gets the chance.
The Yankees will have to bring their A-game and capitalize on any and all errors to have any hope of winning this game.
YANKEES: Freddy Garcia
Without Garcia's consistency on the mound this season the Yankees would, more than likely, be feeling the Los Angeles Angels breathing down their necks in the race for the American League Wild Card. Garcia has a road ERA this season of 2.88 while striking out 43 batters over 53.2 innings.
He has not always had the opportunity to pitch on days when the Yankees provide solid run support. If the Yankees hope to defeat the Red Sox while Beckett is pitching that is going to have to change, but that's not the only thing.
Garcia has been eviscerated this season by Boston. In just eight innings of work Freddy gave up nine earned runs, walked six batters, and surrendered 11 hits.
There is no doubt that the Red Sox have had Garcia's number this season, but much like John Lackey, he has settled in and improved, winning five of his last seven decisions.
Either way expect the Red Sox to tee Garcia up for absolutely no less than three runs. It will take all the fire power the Yankees have to over come Beckett and the run deficit they are sure to face.
EXPECTED OUTCOME: RED SOX WIN 5-2
With the Yankees on a six game winning streak, 8-2 in their last 10 and considering the bats are as hot as they have been all season I expect the Yankees to take two out of three from Boston.
This series will be a tense slug-fest to the finish. Don't be surprised if tempers flare in Beantown and the dugouts clear. All it takes is one bad call or one stray pitch to ignite another feud in Boston.
One way or another at least a historical disaster will be averted. The schlacking of 1912 will still go down in history as the worst season long beating the Boston Red Sox have ever given the New York Yankees.
Most importantly the Yankees take control of the division instead of falling further and further behind.