The last time the New York Yankees visited Boston, they blew leads in three straight games en route to being swept at Fenway Park for the first time in nearly 17 years.
That was the beginning of a tough stretch for the Yankees, who hope to reverse their fortunes in the opener of a three-game set against the Red Sox on Friday night.
New York (22-29) was 8-6 when it made its first trip to Boston April 20-22, but hasn’t been over .500 since. The sweep at Fenway started a seven-game skid— the Yankees’ longest since dropping seven straight to close to the 2000 season.
Unlike that year when the Yankees went on to win their third straight World Series championship, this year’s club faces an uphill climb to get back in contention. New York starts play tied with Tampa Bay for last in the AL East, 13 1/2 games behind Boston.
The Yankees suffered another prolonged slump recently, losing five straight before a 10-5 win over Toronto on Wednesday night.
But the win was tainted with more controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez, who distracted Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark by shouting at him on a key popup in the ninth inning. The ball dropped for an RBI single to give New York a 7-5 lead.
“Honestly, I couldn’t care less,” said Rodriguez, who added New York was “desperate” for a win.
The Yankees’ situation got a little more dire on Thursday after announcing that designated hitter Jason Giambi - batting .345 hitter against the Red Sox this year - would be placed on the disabled list before Friday’s game. Giambi is expected to be sidelined at least three weeks with torn tissue in his left arch.
To snap their skid in Boston, the Yankees will turn to Chien-Ming Wang (3-4, 4.13 ERA). He’s 1-1 with a 4.38 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox this year, but has struggled in four career starts at Fenway, going 1-2 with a 6.08 ERA.
On Saturday, the right-hander held the Los Angeles Angels to three runs and six hits in eight innings, but took the loss in New York’s 3-1 defeat.
Overall this year, the Red Sox (36-16) have won six of nine meetings with the Yankees en route to baseball’s best record. Boston, though, refuses to take wins over New York for granted.
“Take the lead and throw it out the window,” Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek told the team’s official Web site. “It’s another series for us. It is the Yankees, and the hype will never change when we play that team.”
Boston’s division lead shrank Wednesday after an 8-4 loss to Cleveland, snapping a five-game win streak.
Despite the defeat, Kevin Youkilis extended his hitting streak to a career-best 22 games. The first baseman is batting .429 (42-for-98) during the streak, raising his season average from 74 points to .354, second in the AL behind only to New York’s Jorge Posada (.357).
Youkilis is 14-for-37 against the Yankees this season.
Tim Wakefield (5-5, 3.36) will take the mound for Boston on Friday. The knuckleballer has been the losing pitcher in two of Boston’s three losses to the Yankees this season, and has lost seven of his last eight decisions against them since May 2005.
Wakefield was 4-3 with a 1.79 ERA in his first seven starts, but is 1-2 with a 7.11 ERA in his last three, including a loss to New York on May 21, when he gave up six runs in five innings.
On Saturday, Wakefield allowed four runs in seven innings to get the decision in Boston’s 7-4 win over Texas.