The dynamic has changed, as have some of the players involved in baseball’s most storied rivalry.
After long serving as the Yankees’ perennial punching bag, the Red Sox have gained the upper hand in the rivalry in recent years, and they’ll also be looking to extend a seven-game overall winning streak when the teams renew acquaintances at Fenway Park on Friday night.
Held without a World Series championship for 86 years while the Yankees won a record 26 titles, Boston has now won two of the last five titles while New York hasn’t won it all since 2000.
Last year, the Yankees missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, but that lack of success has only served to intensify the rivalry, as they spent nearly half a billion dollars in the offseason on a trio of free agents.
New York outspent Boston for slugger Mark Teixeira, a fact the first baseman will surely be reminded of when he’s welcomed into the rivalry at Fenway, where he’s 12-for-62 (.194) in his career.
“I expect heavy boos,” Teixeira said. “I expect nothing less from those fans.
“This is one of the greatest rivalries in sports. It’s great for baseball and it will always be great for baseball. If anything, the energy that comes from the fans being into it locks you in.”
It would seem hard for the Red Sox (9-6) to be any more locked in. After a tough start, they’ve already matched their longest winning streak from all of last season, using Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep of Minnesota to notch their seventh straight victory.
They scored 17 runs in the two games and have averaged nearly eight during the streak. Even slow-starting David Ortiz is 5-for-12 with four RBIs in his last three games, although he’s still seeking his first home run.
The Yankees’ offense has also been effective. New York (9-6) hit 14 home runs during its first homestand at the new Yankee Stadium, contributing to the record 26 total long balls in the first six games at a new park.
The Yankees won the last three of those contests, including a 9-7, 14-inning victory Wednesday over Oakland on Melky Cabrera’s second home run of the game.
“I think the key is going to be which offense is going to be able to take advantage of mistakes,” Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell told his team’s official Web site.
Those slip-ups could be few Friday, with two talented youngsters on the mound. Boston left-hander Jon Lester (1-2, 5.50 ERA) will be confident after pitching seven shutout innings in a 2-1 win over Baltimore on Sunday, rebounding from a pair of tough starts to begin the season.
Joba Chamberlain (0-0, 5.06) will be looking for a bounce-back effort after giving up five runs and walking five in 4 2-3 innings against Cleveland last Friday. Chamberlain is 2-0 with a 3.12 ERA in six career appearances - two starts - versus the Red Sox.
Lester has an identical record against New York, and compiled a 1.19 ERA and 24 strikeouts in three starts versus the Yankees last year.
The teams split 18 meetings in 2008, and they’re separated by just four games (New York is 65-61) in the head-to-head series since the beginning of 2003, including playoffs.
“We know that we’re going to battle these guys a ton of times this year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told his team’s official Web site. “We all know what the atmosphere is going to be.”