The big Kahunas in the AL East are facing off again this weekend. Ugh, you lament, not another weekend of Boston-New York hype. But this time, it’s different. This time, it’s genuinely exciting.

The Red Sox and Rays are currently tied for first place in the division, the Yankees, three games back. If the Yankees take the three-game series, they could win sole possession of first place for the first time this season. (The last time they were in first, April 16, they were tied with Boston.)

While the Rays are still a legitimate threat, they’ve been streaky in July, winning seven straight before losing seven straight (I guess that’s why they call baseball a .500 game). They’re 4-3 since the All-Star break.

The Yankees, however, have won their six games since the break (and according to Bill James–via Rob Neyer–are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now with a “temperature” of 106 degrees. Um, is that Fahrenheit?). Though touted prospects Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes struggled early on, and young ace Chien Ming Wang hit the 60-day DL mid-June, the Yankees’ pitching staff has been carried by its old warhorses: Andy Pettite (100 K’s), Mike Mussina (3.26 ERA), and Mariano Rivera (25 saves). Joba Chamberlain, who takes the mound tonight, has made a successful transition back to a starting role, posting a 2.64 ERA in nine starts, though only two of those starts earned him a decision. New York’s veteran lineup has survived plenty of injuries as well, and has been red-hot since the break, scoring an average of 6.33 runs per game in that short span.

But if anyone can stop this team, it’s the Boston Red Sox, who have the game’s reigning big-game ace starting tonight in the person of Josh Beckett. Their lineup, too, has been raking, but tonight features an ace of its own, specifically an ace in the hole: David Ortiz, the league’s best DH, will return to the three-hole tonight from a two-month stint on the DL.

So with the dog days of August looming, I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than at Fenway tonight—the muggy summer air smelling of hot dogs and beer, the green grass aglow under the light towers, and the hum of the crowd rising to a roar as Big Papi steps in.

12 Responses to “Red Sox/Yankees. Again. And this time, it matters.”

  1. Nick Kapur says:

    Yeah, the Mariners definitely need more offense, but as you say, the offense is likely to improve. But another thing the Mariners REALLY need is defense. The pitching staff has actually pitched better than its numbers, but last time I checked the Mariners were 29th out of 30 teams in defensive efficiency, which is just brutal. And it’s amazing that they can be that low, given that they have defensive whizes Ichiro and Beltre on their team, but that tells you just how terrible guys like Ibanez, Lopez, Bentancourt, and Sexson are with the glove.

  2. Nick Kapur says:

    But even saying that, the pitchers have been pretty bad! I didn’t even know this, but it turns out that Seattle’s starting pitchers are last in the entire American League with a 5.17 ERA!

  3. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU SARAH….for the Pedro-Zimmer picture. this is like my Jesus at the last supper picture. it almost brings tears of joy to the eyes.

    and I second Mike Lowell in saying: fuck that strike call!!! dammit, I’m throwin my helmet down on that one!

  4. ok, so uh, Johnny Damon was in my office lobby building lobby this afternoon. It’s downtown Boston, but still, it’s a pretty non-descript small building with a tiny lobby, nothing fancy, no one special works there as far as I know – just a bunch of ambulance chasers and/or immigration attorneys. I guess I could have quipped something to him about Giambi’s mustache, but instead, I just stood there and stared. and yes, his wife’s rack was falling out all over the place. that’s my Inside Track update for you.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    That was an utterly dispiriting loss. Shutout in the Fens? By the Yankees?! So dispiriting.

    Josh Beckett battled, but he wasn’t his dominating self. Joba totally had Boston’s number, and I positively SALIVATED when Farnsworth came in. “At last,” I said to myself, “Some runs!!!” But apparently Joe Girardi realized what he’d done before it was too late, and Farnsworth was removed. I just have to tip my hat to the Yankees—even though my team was on the losing side, it was a great game.

    Except for one thing.

    What the HELL was going on with that home plate umpire? Called strike three on Jacoby in the 8th was the exact same (way outside) pitch he’d just called a ball on the previous pitch. And the called third strike to Lowell in the 9th was ridiculous!

    And I’m sorry, but if I’m the home plate umpire and Joba throws at Youk, I’m tossing him from the game. Chamberlain throws at him *literally* every time they face each other. Every. Single. Time. It was obviously going to be the last time they faced each other tonight, so he threw at his head. Nothing could have been more predictable. How was he not ejected?

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, and complaining about the umpire is Reason #36 that baseball is awesome. But really, those were some of the most egregious strike calls I’ve ever seen. Ever. If I had mad video skills, I would post the replays here for all to see. But I don’t. And it’s late. So I will just sleep the angry sleep of the woman scorned.

  7. If I’m the umpire and the pitcher throws at Youk, I buy that pitcher a beer. Throwing at Youk is a sign of good taste.

  8. Lyndsay says:

    what was weird was that I was in a bar in Waltham watching the game, and when Mike Lowell got that call, I was like “that is BULLSHIT!” and the rest of the bar…cheered? and then when they yankees won, half the bar…cheered again!! I looked around and saw guys turning their hats around and then realized that I was in a YANKEE-owned bar? WTF? I was set up!

  9. Lyndsay says:

    I was totally sure we had them with Farnsworth too, Sarah. I thought he would at least try and pull something stupid like throwing behind the head and get himself ejected. but no. and I am really surprised that none of the sox pitchers retaliated – especially since Beckett looked like he was mentally cataloguing every sketchy maneuver on Joba’s part.

  10. Sarah Green says:

    @Coley: I wonder if Joba throws at Youk because he’s the only ballplayer in the majors who’s a bigger douchebag than he is?? Maybe for this year’s Douchies, they can have a douche-off.

    @ Lyndsay: If they had let Beckett out the next inning, I think he totally would have thrown the first pitch at the first batter. He was basically done for the night anyway.

    I feel your pain about the Yankee bar. Today, I listened to most of the game (aka, “embarrassing disaster”) while driving from Connecticut to Pennsylvania, right past a certain metrop.—and I had no choice but to listen to the Yankee radio broadcast! Gross.

  11. Hey, Lyndsay — hope you see this — interesting seeing the Damons in your lobby — she’s preggers again, no? Or so I heard? Also saw a pic of her last time she had let her hair go natural dark. Weird. LOL

  12. Lyndsay says:

    nope. she is still very much a blonde, and did not look preggers whatsoever.

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