After the first two Yankees vs. Red Sox series of this year have taken place at Fenway, the Bombers finally welcome the Sawx to the Bronx for a quick two game set. Despite having played all six games in Boston, the Yankees took both series 2-1 and have now won 13 of the 16 times the two teams have met, dating back to last August.
The Red Sox send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill tonight. After getting a late start to the season due to a stint on the DL, Dice-K began with two poor starts. However, his most recent outing was an excellent one. Through two games he had given up 18 baserunners and 12 runs in 10 innings, but was downright dominant last Tuesday against the Blue Jays.
Matsuzka worked though seven one-run innings in Fenway and allowed just three hits and struck out nine without walking a single batter. Considering that he has walked more than four batters per nine innings since he's been in the Majors, the lack of a free pass was especially notable; it was only the seventh time in his MLB career he's been able to avoid giving away a base on balls. It's unlikely that he'll be able to duplicate the feat against the Yankees, who are fourth in the MLB in walks, but his last start at least demonstrated what he's capable of when things are going right.
Phil Hughes will toe the rubber for the Yanks this evening. Not only is he off to the best start out of any Yankee pitcher, he has the lowest ERA of any qualifying pitcher in the American League. Hughes won't keep a 1.38 ERA all season - he's going to have some rough outings sooner or later - but so far this year it's been an absolute thrill to watch him excel as a starting pitcher. Hitters just can't seem to square up with either his four-seam or cut fastball and he keeps them off-balance by dropping in a curveball about one in every eight pitches.
Two Fridays ago at Fenway, Hughes held the Sox to two runs over seven innings. He struck out seven, allowed seven hits and walked one en route to picking up his fourth win of the season. The incredible part about that is the fact that it's only Hughes' 5th best start in six times out.
As Mike from RAB pointed out earlier today, facing the Red Sox for the second time will be the true test for Hughes. The first time, he threw fewer and fewer four-seamers each time through the order, instead mixing in more and more cutters and curves as he went along. Perhaps the Red Sox have identified that tendency and will be expecting it. Or perhaps Phil and Frankie Cervelli know that they will be expecting it and will alter the game plan accordingly. It's all about making adjustments and whoever out-thinks the opponent will have a distinct advantage tonight.
Adjustments, they remain, but not just for the purpose of adaption,
Cause that's natural, I'm trying to stay alert to actions,
Surroundings, became more dangerous,
The more familiar I've became with strangers.
[Nick Johnson update: Johnson will undergo surgery on his wrist
and be out four to six weeks. If that's what it turns out to be, that's not all that bad, but to make a massive over-generalization, the guys who tend to get hurt all the time don't usually heal up very fast. I'd be pleasantly surprised if he was back before the Fourth of July.]
Yankees: Jorge Posada gets the night off after taking a foul tip off of his foot yesterday and Frankie Cervelli pulls catching duty. A-Rod is DHing as Ramiro Pena plays 3rd. Nick Swisher is out of the lineup since Matsuzaka is right handed, so Brett Gardner will be flanked by Marcus Thames and Randy Winn in the outfield corners. One through five in the line up looks pretty good, but it goes downhill fast after that. Good luck Phil, you probably won't have much of a margin for error.