Having finished second behind the New York Yankees in the AL East in each of the previous five seasons, the Boston Red Sox find themselves in a familiar position entering this weekend’s four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
That doesn’t mean the first-place Yankees will be taking them for granted.
“Even though they haven’t made the postseason that often, they’re always in the hunt, and they’re always the team we need to beat,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
“They have to be dealt with on a yearly basis.”
With his team carrying a four-game lead over Boston into the series, Torre is excited to be going head-to-head with his main competition in the division race.
“The fact that you’re playing the Red Sox and they’re the one sitting right behind you at the present time, every game you play is doubly important,” he added.
“You don’t play scoreboard; they’re in the ballpark with you.”
The Yankees have had a couple of days to watch the scoreboard after having the finale of their three-game series in Baltimore rained out Wednesday.
Boston lost two of three at last-place Tampa Bay, including Thursday’s 6-5, 10-inning setback.
The Red Sox’s beleaguered bullpen squandered a two-run lead in the eighth inning. Mike Timlin then gave up an RBI single to Marlon Anderson in the bottom of the 10th. Boston had won six of seven before its disappointing series in Tampa Bay.
Since being no-hit by six Houston pitchers on June 11, the Yankees have won 16 of 19, including eight in a row before Tuesday’s 7-3 setback in Baltimore.
STANDINGS: Red Sox - 2nd place, 4 GB, AL East. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Derek Lowe (9-3, 4.51 ERA). After a slow start, Lowe has rediscovered the form that had him vying for the AL Cy Young Award in his first full season as a starter in 2002. The veteran right-hander is 6-0 over his last nine starts, including Sunday’s 11-7 victory over Florida. Lowe yielded six runs and five hits over seven innings, marking just the second time in six outings he has surrendered more than two earned runs. Lowe is 4-7 with five saves and a 5.17 ERA in 31 career appearances, including seven starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: David Wells (10-2, 3.40 ERA). The Yankees’ most consistent starter this season, Wells went 4-0 in six June starts, including a 6-4 victory over the New York Mets last Friday. The burly left-hander yielded four runs and a season-high 12 hits over six innings, while striking out three. Wells has walked just four batters the entire season, and none in his last three starts. He is 13-19 with a 4.97 ERA in 46 career appearances, including 33 starts, against Boston. Wells did beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park on May 19, allowing one run and nine hits over 6 2-3 innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Red Sox - Nomar Garciaparra, .339 avg. and 73 runs; Manny Ramirez, 19 HRs and 64 RBIs; Johnny Damon, 14 SBs. Yankees - Hideki Matsui, .302 avg.; Jason Giambi, 22 HRs and 63 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 68 runs and 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Red Sox - RHP Lowe is 1-3 with three saves and a 5.03 ERA in 14 career appearances, including four starts, at Yankee Stadium. He did not receive a decision in Boston’s 6-5 loss at New York on May 28, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings. … The Red Sox were held to six hits Wednesday, stopping their streak of consecutive games with double-digit hits at nine. … SS Garciaparra is hitting .320 (16-for-50) with one homer, five doubles and seven RBIs in his career against LHP Wells. Yankees - Wells is 4-2 with a 4.45 ERA in eight home starts this year. … OF Raul Mondesi, who has played in each of the Yankees’ first 83 games, is mired in a 2-for-21 slump. … Friday marks the 20th anniversary of Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1983.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Sox - 20-23 on the road; Yankees - 23-17 at home.
INJURIES: Red Sox - 1B-OF Jeremy Giambi (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Casey Fossum (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ramiro Mendoza (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Robert Person (hip), 15-day DL. Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Contreras (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Antonio Osuna (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.