The Yankees try to keep chipping away at Boston’s division lead and win their third straight overall Tuesday night when they continue their three-game home series with the Red Sox.
A lackluster start to the season dropped the Yankees (20-23) to 10 1/2 games behind the Red Sox (30-14) in the East entering this series—their largest division deficit at any point since manager Joe Torre arrived in New York for the 1996 season. Boston had also taken five of six previous meetings between the rivals this season, including two of three games April 27-29 at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees, though, reduced the deficit to single digits with a 6-2 victory in Monday night’s series opener. Alex Rodriguez homered for the third straight game, Jason Giambi snapped a 1-for-26 slide with a solo shot in the second, and Johnny Damon had three hits and two stolen bases against his former team.
“We’re working our way out of this hole,” said Giambi, who is batting .435 (10-for-23) this season against the Red Sox. “I hope that as this weather warms up, so does the offense.”
The win was the second straight overall for the Yankees, who beat the New York Mets 6-2 on Sunday in the final game of their interleague series.
“We’re getting more comfortable—especially the thing that deserted us, which was the offense,” Torre said. “We won two in a row. We haven’t done this in a while. It’s not something we usually trumpet, but we haven’t done this a lot.”
Mike Mussina (2-2, 5.64 ERA) takes the mound Tuesday looking to lead the Yankees to three consecutive wins for the first time since they opened May with a three-game sweep at Texas.
Mussina was on the disabled list with a hamstring strain for the first two series between these clubs this year, but he is no stranger to the Red Sox. The 38-year-old right-hander is 19-14 with a 3.47 ERA versus Boston—the most wins among active pitchers, although his 50 starts against the Red Sox are also the most.
He has enjoyed success against several Boston hitters. Manny Ramirez is batting .244 (22-for-90) lifetime versus Mussina, David Ortiz is hitting .224 (11-for-49) and Jason Varitek owns a .109 (6-for-55) lifetime average against the veteran.
However, Mussina has failed to last beyond six innings in any of his five outings. At Chicago on Wednesday, he gave up five runs and eight hits— including two homers—in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-3 defeat to the White Sox.
The Red Sox counter with Julian Tavarez (2-4, 5.59), who is coming off easily his best start of the season. The right-hander pitched a season-high seven innings Thursday against Detroit, allowing a season-low one run with four hits and four walks in Boston’s 2-1 victory. He lowered his ERA more than one full run from 6.60.
Tavarez, who has pitched in relief for most of his career, knows he will likely return to the bullpen once Josh Beckett returns from his blister problems and left-hander Jon Lester completes his comeback from cancer.
“For me this is my 12th full season in the major leagues and I appreciate it day after day,” Tavarez said. “(Red Sox manager Terry Francona) gave me a good opportunity to be a starter and I just enjoy every one. I don’t know if it’s going to be forever, but if it’s not, I’m going to enjoy it in the bullpen or doing whatever it is.”
Prior to beating the Tigers, Tavarez’s only win of the season came in a 7-4 Boston victory at Yankee Stadium on April 29, when he yielded three runs in five innings.