Who would've thought that, after their abysmal beginning, the New York Yankees would be playing a meaningful series against the Boston Red Sox in September?
As they prepare for a three-game set in Fenway Park, the Yankees look to topple the Red Sox from their perch atop the American League East standings, where they've resided all season.
With only two weeks left, a 5 1/2 game deficit is not easy to surmount. The best, and possibly only chance the Wild Card leading Yankees have is to sweep this series and hope for some help. In the meantime, Boston would like nothing more than to give the Yankees a taste of their own medicine and sweep them out of town. Once up by 14 1/2 games (shades of '78), the Yankees are a little too close for comfort in the eyes of the best team in baseball.
Despite having the best record in the Majors, the Red Sox trail the Yankees 7-8 in the season series, thanks in large part to the most recent series between the two in which New York swept Boston two weeks ago. In fact, since May 23, the Yankees are 7-2 against their rivals, and remain the best team in baseball since the All-Star Break (Boston is second).
The epic rivalry is renewed this evening, as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andy Pettitte face-off at Fenway Park. Dice-K has been smacked around by the Yankees this season, to the tune of a 6.98 ERA, and he's coming off the worst outing of his (albeit very short) Major League career. Pettitte, on the other hand, is 2-1 against the Sox this season, is 9-2 since the All Star break, and is looking for the 200th win of career.
The pitching match-ups this weekend couldn't be better. Matsuzaka and Pettitte tonight. Tomorrow, two 18-game winners in Josh Beckett and Chien-Ming Wang will toe the rubber. And on Sunday night, Roger Clemens returns to Fenway as a Yankee for the first time since the 2003 ALCS (a.k.a. "Ultimate Fighting Championship: Pedro Martinez vs. Don Zimmer), to take on another fiery old veteran in Curt Schilling.
As is typical with these two teams, there are several underlying storylines and a fair share of bad blood that will likely be stirred up this weekend. This season alone, there have been hard hits and questionable slides (Mike Lowell, Alex Rodriguez), head-hunting (Scott Proctor), hit batsmen galore (Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, Pedroia, Youkilis), veiled accusations and league suspensions (Terry Francona, Kevin Youkilis and Joba Chamberlain). Never a dull moment with these two. This weekend should be no different. With this being the last meeting between the two bitter rivals and the playoffs just around the corner, all bets are off. This is the last face-off between the powerhouse Yankees and Red Sox of 2007. Unless, of course, October beckons.