Monday, August 25, 2008

First things first against Sox

It's hard to imagine the Yankees actually catching a break this season, but Josh Beckett's absence from this week's series against the Red Sox certainly qualifies as that.

Tim Wakefield will be Beckett's replacement. Fresh off the disabled list, Aaron Boone's best friend hasn't pitched for Boston since Aug. 6 and his recent history against the Yankees portends to a big day for the Bombers bats. The 42-year-old knuckleballer is 9-17 with a 5.18 ERA in his career against New York. The Yanks knocked Wakefield around in their last matchup, touching him up for six runs over 5 1/3 innings in July.

The Yankees will counter with Andy Pettitte, one of two dependable pitchers on the staff. The road to the postseason will be nearly impossible unless a pitcher in the rotation not named Pettitte or Mussina steps up in a big way, but for now the two vets must be at the top of their games. If either pitcher is injured or falls into a slump, this season is done.

All that said, the series-opening Pettitte-Wakefield matchup is an essential game for the Yankees. The last time Pettitte opened a series against the Red Sox, he crapped the bed. If you know anything about No. 46, he hasn't forgotten that 7-0 loss on July 3. Pettitte and the Yanks need to take advantage of this matchup. Urgency my friends. URGENCY!

Sidney Ponson will face Paul Byrd in the middle game, a contest with potential to become a battle of the bullpens. It will be interesting to see how Ponson bounces back from his atrocious start in Toronto. Unfortunately, his history against the Red Sox as a Yankee isn't very promising. Ponson's introduction to the rivalry was a pounding in the series finale at Fenway Park on July 27. The hope here is that Ponson can gut through five or six innings without giving this thing away.

Mike Mussina will then take the ball in the finale, a matinée game at the Stadium. Jon Lester will make the start for the Sox. Like Ponson, Lester was beat up by the Blue Jays in his last start. The left-hander allowed seven runs on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career as a starter. As evidenced by his track record, Lester is a tough dude, so I look for a competitive performance from him. Moose, just four wins from 20, will have to keep pace.

One X-factor to keep in mind as we approach Tuesday's opener. For the first time since 1999, this rivalry will be without the ultimate Yankee Killer, Manny Ramirez. This has been lost in the shuffle with all of the last-trip-into-the-Stadium-for-Sox stuff, but it cannot be understated. Jason Bay has been a very capable replacement in left field, but I stand by the fact that Boston made a big mistake in letting Manny's latest spat blow up into a trade. This is a weaker Red Sox team than the Yanks saw the last time these two teams met. Even the most ardent Sox fan blowhard would have a hard time disagreeing with that.

And yet, they probably would. This, my friends, is why Boston sucks.

No comments: