The Yankees took two of three against the Twins over the weekend but lost the finale in stinging fashion when Mariano Rivera gave up a grand slam in the eighth inning. New York will have to bounce back from that blow quickly, though, as it welcomes the archrival Red Sox to Yankee Stadium for a quick two-game set.
The Bombers (24-13) have taken four of six from Boston (19-19) already this season with all of those games being played at Fenway Park.
The Sox—who currently sit in fourth place, seven-and-a-half games back of the leading Rays and five-and-a-half back of the second-place Yanks—continue to struggle from the mound. Boston's 4.83 ERA is second worst in the American League and the two pitching matchups in this series both appear to be in New York's favor.
Monday, May 17—Phil Hughes (5-0, 1.38) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-1, 6.35)
If the AL Cy Young Award were handed out today, Hughes would win it. The young right-hander leads the league in wins, winning percentage, ERA, and WHIP (0.92), and he proved he can pitch against the Red Sox on May 7, when he allowed just two runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in a seven-inning victory. Hughes is now 1-2 with a 5.85 ERA in nine games (three starts) versus Boston.
He hasn't given up a hit to Dustin Pedroia (0-for-11), Adrian Beltre (0-for-7, 4 K's), Jason Varitek (0-for-4), Jeremy Hermida (0-for-3), or Bill Hall (0-for-1).
But J.D. Drew (4-for-6, 4 walks), Mike Lowell (2-for-5), Victor Martinez (3-for-5), and David Ortiz (3-for-4, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, 2 walks) have had success facing Hughes.
Matsuzaka has improved in each of his three starts, culminating with his best performance his last time out, when he yielded just one run on three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts in a 6-1 win over Toronto on Tuesday.
The right-hander is 3-3 with a 5.49 ERA in seven starts versus New York and while he struggled at the old Yankee Stadium (1-1, 6.57), he pitched better at the new ballpark last year (0-1, 1.29).
Dice-K has dominated Robinson Cano (4-for-19, .211, 7 K's) and Alex Rodriguez (1-for-16, .063, 7 K's), but a few Yanks have had success facing him.
Derek Jeter is 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers, Jorge Posada is 6-for-12 (.500) with three doubles, and Nick Swisher is 3-for-10 (.300), but questions still linger about his ability to bat from the left side due to a biceps injury.
Tuesday, May 18—CC Sabathia (4-2, 3.71) vs. Josh Beckett (1-1, 7.46)
Two of Sabathia's three worst starts this season have come against the Red Sox, during which he's surrendered eight earned runs in 10 innings for a 7.20 ERA. But the big lefty's poorest outing came in his last time out, when he yielded six runs in six frames at Detroit.
He'll try to bounce back against a team against which he's compiled a 5-5 record and a 3.74 ERA in 13 career starts. Both of CC's bad games versus the Sox this year have come on the road. Now he gets a shot at them at home, where he's 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in 2010.
Last year's ALCS MVP has held the following Boston hitters in check: Ortiz (7-for-29, .241, 5 K's), Pedroia (1-for-19, .053, 6 K's), Varitek (2-for-16, .125), Beltre (1-for-16, .063, 6 K's), Drew (3-for-14, .214, 7 K's), and Hall (1-for-8, .125, 4 K's).
But Marco Scutaro (7-for-21, .333, 5 walks) and Kevin Youkilis (8-for-21, .381, 3 XBH) have had success.
Beckett, who has been dealing with some back issues which forced him to miss his last turn in the rotation, has been absolutely lit up by the Bombers in two starts this season (0-1, 12.60 ERA).
The good news for the right-hander is that he's 17-11 with a 3.09 ERA when starting on at least six days' rest (he'll be working on 10 days' rest), but the bad news is that he has a 5.96 ERA despite a 9-6 record in 19 starts against the Bombers.
Beckett struggled at the old Yankee Stadium (5.66 ERA in six starts), but he flourished at the new ballpark last season (1-0, 2.08 in two starts).
The 30-year-old Texan has been knocked around by Cano (17-for-49, .347, 10 RBI), Posada (11-for-33, .333), and Marcus Thames (3-for-8, .375, HR), but he's had success facing Teixeira (4-for-26, .154, 9 K's) and Brett Gardner (3-for-14, .214, 4 K's).
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org