Not much has gone right for the Boston Red Sox this year, but it’s been so far, so good against their hated rival New York Yankees. The teams finish a three game set on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.
First pitch from Yankee Stadium will be 5:00 p.m. (PT). Boston has the pitching advantage once again with Jon Lester (4-1, 2.96 ERA) going up against Freddy Garcia (2-2, 2.61 ERA).
Boston (18-20) still hasn’t reached .500 this season after losing its first six games. Neither the hitting (4.21 runs per game, eighth in the AL) nor pitching (4.39 team ERA, 12th in the AL) have performed as expected for the preseason pennant favorite.
The Red Sox have at least played well against the Yanks. They took two off three at home in early April and started strong this series with a 5-4 Friday win. Clay Buchholz got the win over the ancient Bartolo Colon, the latter only starting due to Phil Hughes’ injury.
Manager Terry Francona shifted his rotation this series, something he often does against New York. Daisuke Matsuzaka was skipped, which set up Josh Beckett to face CC Sabathia on Saturday night. That result is still pending.
Beckett (1.99 ERA) has had a good bounce-back year, but it’s Lester who’s the team ace after averaging almost 17 wins (3.29 ERA) the last three seasons.
The 27-year-old lefty is coming off a tough start at Toronto last Tuesday, giving up five earned runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-6 loss. That was a no-decision. He had a miniscule 1.54 ERA in his six previous starts.
Lester hasn’t faced the Yankees this year, but fared great in four starts against them last season (3-0, 2.13 ERA). He was 2-0 in New York last year, not allowing a run over 13 1/3 innings. He’s 4-1 with a career 1.99 ERA pitching at old and new Yankee Stadium.
New York went into the second game of the series three games ahead of Boston at 20-16, but trailing Tampa Bay (23-15) by two games in the AL East. The Rays have had an incredible 22-7 surge after starting 1-8.
Manager Joe Girardi’s guys lead the AL in runs scored (5.14 per game). That’s still below the averages from 2010 (5.30) and 2009 (5.65) when they led MLB.
The starting staff has Sabathia (2.89 ERA) and A.J. Burnett (3.38 ERA) at the top, but the bottom guys have filled in admirably as well. That includes the journeyman Garcia, who began the year as the fifth starter.
The 34-year-old right-hander is in his first year for the Bronx Bombers. He didn’t make his first start until April 16, pushed back for various reasons. He’s 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA at home, allowing one run over six innings in a 3-1 home win over Kansas City last Tuesday.
Garcia pitched one inning of relief at Boston on April 10, allowing an earned run. He’s pitched effectively against Boston the last couple of years (2-0, 2.79 ERA) while pitching for the White Sox.
The ‘under’ is 5-0 in Garcia’s starts this year. The ‘under’ is 12-4-3 in New York’s last 19 games overall.
New York is 13-9 at home this year versus 7-7 away. Boston is just 7-11 away even after winning Friday, and 11-9 at home.
Boston has relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler on the injured list. Set-up man Daniel Bard (3.20 ERA) hasn’t been nearly as dominant as last year (1.93 ERA), although closer Jonathan Papelbon (6-of-7 in saves. 2.87 ERA) has done well in his free agent year.
Umpire Mike Everitt will call balls and strikes. The Red Sox are 6-1 the last seven times he’s been behind home plate. The ‘under’ is 13-6 in his last 19 overall behind the dish.
Weather will be in the 60s with thunder showers expected. There is no rest for the weary as Boston opens a home series with Baltimore on Monday while New York starts an important two-game set in Tampa Bay.
New York was 0-5 last year in opening games of a series after facing Boston.