The Red Sox ride a seven game win streak into a weekend series with the Yankees, who have played well since their 22-4 destruction by Cleveland.
The Sox showcase Lester, Beckett, and Masterson while the Yankees counter with Joba "the Hut" Chamberlain, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte.
The first game of the series pits teams with identical 9-6 records tied for second place behind Toronto. Chamberlain pitched brilliantly in one start against the Sox last season, and Lester shutout the Yankees at the Stadium. Chamberlain has a propensity for head-hunting, with Kevin Youkilis the object for his disaffection. Yankee lackey Bob Watson ought to consider dropping a dime to Chamberlain with some reminders of the impact of the "purpose" pitch, using Tony Conigliaro and Kirby Puckett as tragic examples of baseball meeting heads.
Mark Teixeira (double 'e' before 'i') makes his pinstripe debut at Fenway Park leaving disaffected Boston suitors for a steamer trunk full of Benjamins. Like Willie Sutton, Teixeira simply knew "that's where the money is."
The Sox and Yanks are tied for fourth in offense, with both having scored 84 points in 15 games. The Red Sox have a team ERA of 4.14 while the Yankees (largely secondary to that 22 run outing) check in tenth at 6.02. The Bombers are second in fielding percentage in the AL while the Red Sox are ninth.
Early season punch for the Sox has come from Youkilis, J.D. Drew, and Jason Bay, combining for 10 homers, 35 runs scored, and 30 RBI. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Nick Swisher have also produced 10 homers, 27 runs scored, and 34 RBI.
The Sox come in with starting shortstop Jed Lowrie on the DL, but otherwise reasonably good health, while the Yankees miss perennial All-star A-Rod on the DL following hip surgery.
Boston and New York split the season series last year, the Yankees led 10-8 in 2007, and 11-8 in 2006.
Sox fans should expect the usual playoff atmosphere when the Gothamites invade Fenway, although the Sox probably eagerly await their first trip to the new palatial Yankee Stadium.