New York (84-63) at Boston (89-59)

Light Rain/Windy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 51° F
  • Game info: 3:55 pm EDT Sat Sep 15, 2007
  • TV: FOX
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Two big pitching matchups remain during this weekend’s series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, starting with a matchup of 18-game winners on Saturday.

Chien-Ming Wang and Josh Beckett will each try to become baseball’s first 19-game winner as the Yankees try to further cut into the Red Sox’s 4 1/2-game lead in the AL East.

Although this series concludes Sunday night when Curt Schilling faces Roger Clemens, those two pitchers have combined to win only 14 games this year.

Beckett (18-6, 3.27 ERA) and Wang (18-6, 3.69), meanwhile, are both candidates to win the AL Cy Young Award. Beckett, known for his blazing fastball, began the season 8-0 while Wang, whose specialty is inducing groundouts with his sinker, enters this game after winning his last five outings.

“I can’t fault whoever votes for Beckett or Wang for the Cy Young, but they’re two different type pitchers,” said Yankees manager Joe Torre, whose team scored six runs in the eighth inning to rally for an 8-7 victory on Friday.

Boston (89-59) seemed poised to reduce its magic number to capture its first division title since 1995 to nine, taking a 7-2 lead into the eighth inning on Friday. New York (84-63) sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning, tying the game on Bobby Abreu’s two-run double and taking its first lead on Alex Rodriguez’s RBI single.

“It’s a character builder,” said Rodriguez, who called it the Yankees’ “biggest win of the year.”

Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima failed to record an out in the eighth - allowing four runs - while closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up the hits to Abreu and Rodriguez for his third blown save.

“It came apart in a hurry,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

The Yankees, who trailed the Red Sox by as many as 14 1/2 games, have won five straight meetings against the Red Sox. They also remained 3 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the AL wild-card race while still trying to earn their 10th straight division title.

Johnny Damon went 4-for-6 against his former team - his first four-hit game since June 17th last year. Jorge Posada returned after getting a day off Thursday in Toronto and went 2-for-4, raising his average to .485 (16-for-33) in September.

“We went through a big mess early in the season and we were able to brush it off,” Damon said. “This is a special team. Hopefully, we can keep the magic going.”

The Red Sox will try to bounce back behind Beckett, who hasn’t pitched well this year against the Yankees - whom he shut out in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series with Florida. He’s just 1-1 with a 5.49 ERA in three starts against New York in 2007, and Rodriguez (5-for-11) and Melky Cabrera (5-for-10) have each hit him well in those games.

The right-hander, however, has pitched very well down the stretch, going 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA in his last seven starts. He won his second straight outing by yielding two runs over seven innings in a 3-2 win at Baltimore on Sunday.

Beckett is 8-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 10 day starts.

Wang has a 2.04 ERA in winning his last five starts and can match his career-high win total from last season. He yielded three runs over seven innings in a 6-3 victory at Kansas City on Sunday.

The right-hander lost to the Red Sox on April 29 after allowing four runs over six innings in a 7-4 defeat, but went 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his next three outings against them. Wang was spectacular in his last start against Boston, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning and giving up just Mike Lowell’s single in seven frames in a 5-0 victory.

Wang is 7-0 with a 2.83 ERA when pitching on five days’ rest this season.

David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis are both 4-for-10 against Wang this year, and Ortiz is 12-for-27 (.444) with two homers and eight RBIs in his career versus the Yankees ace.

Ortiz went 2-for-4 in Friday’s loss, and is hitting .412 (14-for-34) with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games.

It doesn’t appear that he will be joined in the lineup by Manny Ramirez this weekend. He missed his 16th straight game with a strained muscle in his left side, and the Red Sox don’t expect him back until Monday at the earliest.

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Starting Pitchers

C. Wang Cin vs. J. Beckett LAD
19-7 Record 20-7
3.70 ERA 3.27
104 K 194
59 BB 40
1.29 WHIP 1.14

Scoreboard

Saturday, Sep 15