After the nightmare that was the first eight Yankee-Red Sox meetings this year, we couldn't have dreamed up anything better than the four game sweep two weeks ago. It had a little bit of everything: a blow out, an instant classic, some bad blood, and plenty of late inning heroics.
Tonight the next chapter begins. We've seen nothing but the two extremes thus far; will this series fall somewhere in between? Time will tell, but as it usually is when these teams meet, it will be interesting. How this weekend plays out will have a major impact on the remainder of the season. The Yanks enter the game with a 6.5 game lead in the AL East, giving them a 92.3% chance of winning the division. Come Monday that lead can be as much as 9.5 or as little 3.5 games with six weeks to go. Regardless, it's still too early for the Yankees to start counting their chickens. The unlikely and the unprecented have happened between these teams too many times before.
Brad Penny gets the start for the Red Sox. Despite entering the game with 5.85 ERA through 60 IP, Penny baffled the Yankees on June 11th, the last time these teams met at Fenway. Penny went six shutout innings, giving up six hits, a walk, a hit batsman, and striking out five, but was no longer the pitcher of record when the Sox took the lead for good. That start notwithstanding, Penny has had a poor season, with a 5.22 ERA (90 ERA+) and a WHIP of 1.50. In his last four starts he's 0-3 with a 7.54 ERA, a 1.68 WHIP, and a batting line against of .300/.375/.589. Let's hope that run continues tonight.
He'll be opposed by Andy Pettitte. As we've mentioned the last several times he's gotten the ball, Andy has been on a tear since the All-Star break, with a 2.04 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and .218/.268/.275 batting line against in six starts, but he only has one win to show for it. Included in that run are seven shutout innings with just five hits and two walks against the Sox two Sundays ago. He'll look to keep his hot streak alive tonight and erase the memory of a so-so start in Fenway on April 26th that saw him take the loss. He'll be well rested, having last started a week ago.
George A. King III and Peter Abraham are both reporting that Damaso Marte is in the house. Bryan Hoch tweets that Pena is in fact the one to go. My head will now explode. Michael Bowden is up for the Sox.
I'll be following from the iPhone tonight, as I'll be taking in a Little Feat and Hot Tuna concert. The last time I went to a show during a Friday night Yanks-Sox game, things didn't turn out too well. That last time I went to a show that Little Feat was playing, I skipped their whole set while I watched a Yankee game in the theater lobby. That didn't turn out too hot either. So if some malady should befall the Yankees tonight, you know who to blame.
After the sweep two weeks ago, with a nice lead in the division, and a 98.7% chance of making the post-season, it's tempting to enter this series with chests puffed out and an eye towards October. That would be a fool's errand. Things can change awfully fast in a head-to-head series, and storm clouds can quickly change a sunny sky. The Yanks have been down at the hands of the Sox already this year. The best bet is to stay focused on the game at had; that road will take the team where they want to be.
All, all that you dream
Comes through shining silver lining
Clouds, clouds change the scene
Rain starts washing all these cautions
Right into your life, makes you realize
Just what is true, what else can you do
You just follow the rule
Keep your eyes on the road that's ahead of you
NL East Notes: Howard, Joseph, Francoeur, Castillo
29 minutes ago