June 9, 2011: The Boston Red Sox complete their second three-game sweep of the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium within a month. It's the first time they've ever swept consecutive series in any Yankee Stadium. Boston pulls two games ahead of the New York for first place in the American League East. Suddenly, the sky is falling over New York City. Mike Francesa nearly has a heart attack from all the stupidity voiced on WFAN, the Four-Letter-Network is brushing their shoulder after boldly predicting BOTH sweeps, and the Yankees are nothing but a bunch of 40-year-old washed up baseball players who have no heart.
Let's flash forward to August 5th.
The Yankees have compiled a 35-15 (.700) record since being embarrassed at the stadium and the Red Sox have gone 32-16 (.666). Let me emphasize that winning 61.7% of your games gets a team to 100 wins. Needless to say, both of these teams are playing out of their minds at the moment.
Oh, and they're tied for first in the American League East.
Like jscape mentioned earlier, maybe there isn't a tremendous amount on the line this time around. It seems like a lock that both of these teams will be playing baseball in October. What remains to be seen is who will enter playoff baseball as the champion of the AL East, and who will take the Wild Card.
If the Yankees think they deserve to win the division, they've got to prove they can beat Boston this weekend.
The Yankees are merely 1-8 this year against the Red Sox. CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia haven't shown their good stuff (Five starts, 26.0 innings, 34 hits, 21 ER, 14 BB) while Josh Beckett has looked like Cy Young (Two starts, six hits, zero earned runs, three walks, 19 strikeouts).
However, now looks like as good a time as possible for the Yankees to reverse this year's unfavorable trend. They're coming off a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox and haven't walked a batter in a week. The Yankees have outscored their opponents 63-19 on their seven game winning streak and are playing the best baseball they've played all season.
CC Sabathia has made himself the front-runner for the Cy Young award over his last eight starts. Here's his line: Eight games, 62.2 innings, 41 hits, 16 walks, seven earned runs, 78 strikeouts. Yes, 1.01 ERA. If Sabathia can get a league-leading 17th win on Saturday, he'll likely earn an even more illustrious payday this off-season. Boston is running into him at the wrong time.
Injuries have been a huge story for both of these teams as well. Most notably for the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Rafael Soriano, and Eric Chavez went down with various injuries and were lost for extended periods of time this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz, Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, J.D. Drew, and Jed Lowrie have all experienced time on the disabled list for the Red Sox. All things considered, pretty impressive that they've both been able to have so much success thus far.
All things considered, this series will give us a better indication on where both of these teams stand with less than two months remaining in the regular season. The Yankees will throw their three most consistent pitchers in 2011 (Bartolo Colon, Sabathia, Garcia) while the Red Sox will go with their big two, Jon Lester and Beckett, to open and close the series with John Lackey sandwiched in-between.
Since 2002, the Yankees hold a 87-80 edge over the Red Sox. Since 2008, each season series has ended 9-9. New York has their work cut out for them if they wish to do that again. Boston hasn't won a regular season series since 2004 (11-8).
These teams always play each other tough and I expect a great series up at Fenway Park. Somewhere, Joe West is crying.
Prediction: Yankees take two out of three.