The New York Yankees need someone to step up in order to end a season’s worth of futility against their archrivals.
While the Yankees (65-42) have surged to the top of the AL East by going 14-5 since the All-Star break to open a 2 1/2-game lead on their bitter nemesis, beating the Red Sox (62-44) has thus far been an impossible task. New York is 0-8 against Boston in 2009 - getting outscored 55-31 - and was swept in a three-game series at Fenway Park from June 9-11 in the most recent meeting between the teams.
“You want to get that zero, that goose egg out of there,” manager Joe Girardi said before Wednesday’s 8-4 victory over Toronto. “We’re going to be asked about that goose egg as long as it’s there, so you want to get that out of the way as soon as possible.”
The Yankees have that opportunity behind Chamberlain (7-2, 3.58 ERA). The right-hander is enjoying his best success as a starter since being converted from a reliever last year and will attempt to win his career-high fourth consecutive start.
Chamberlain is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break, conceding eight hits in 21 2-3 innings. He scattered three hits and two walks in eight shutout innings of a 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay on July 29.
“Joba seems to get better and better every time out,” shortstop Derek Jeter(notes) said. “Today, in my opinion, was the best he’s been all year because he was working quick, he’s throwing strikes. It’s easy to play behind him.”
The right-hander, though, has gone 0-1 with a 4.09 ERA in two starts against Boston this year. The Red Sox reached him for four first-inning runs in dealing Chamberlain a 7-3 defeat in his most recent start against them May 5.
Johnny Damon(notes) homered for the second consecutive game in Wednesday’s victory and finished with three RBIs. He is batting .455 with six RBIs his last five games, and his 19 homers are his most since hitting a career-high 24 in 2006.
While the Yankees appear poised to extend their lead atop the AL East, the Red Sox are trying to regroup after losing a pair of games to the Tampa Bay Rays. Boston absorbed a 6-4 defeat Wednesday, going 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, and the team knows this is a critical point in its playoff drive.
“Four games in New York I think is a big series for any team that has aspirations of playing in the playoffs,” outfielder Rocco Baldelli(notes) told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “We know that they have their big pitchers going, so we have to be ready.”
Recently acquired Victor Martinez(notes) homered in the defeat, continuing his torrid stretch since being acquired from Cleveland. He is 10 for 21 with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs in four games with Boston.
Martinez, however, will be without some protection in the lineup as left fielder Jason Bay(notes) is expected to miss the first two games of this series after aggravating a hamstring injury - that cost him the previous two games - in Wednesday’s loss.
John Smoltz(notes) (2-4, 7.12) tries to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season but is 1-2 with a 9.18 ERA in three games since the All-Star break. The 42-year-old right-hander labored to a win at Baltimore on Friday, giving up five runs and eight hits - including two homers - in six innings of a 6-5 victory.
He has no record and a 4.50 ERA in two starts against the Yankees, whom he has not faced since 2006.