The New York Yankees put an end to their recent struggles against the Boston Red Sox with a sweep earlier this month. If they can duplicate that success in Fenway Park, they’ll all but put an end to the AL East race.
The Yankees seek to snap their seven-game losing streak at Fenway and put the rival Red Sox further in the rear-view mirror Friday night when the clubs open a three-game series.
Boston dominated this rivalry over the season’s first half, winning the first eight meetings and taking a three-game division lead into the All-Star break as a result. The Yankees won their first eight overall after the break, though, and led the Red Sox by 2 1/2 games when Boston arrived in the Bronx for four contests starting Aug. 6.
The result was a Yankee fan’s dream and a Red Sox diehard’s nightmare. New York outscored Boston 25-8 in a sweep that featured a 13-6 rout in the opener and two consecutive shutouts, including a 2-0, 15-inning marathon won on a homer by Alex Rodriguez(notes).
The Yankees (76-45) have kept rolling ever since, winning seven of 10 games and all three series they’ve played. New York has won five straight series overall, is 14-3 since Aug. 2 and 25-8 since the All-Star break. The Yankees are 5-2 on their current road trip after taking three of four in Seattle and two of three in Oakland.
“I think it just kept us on a roll, kept us used to winning series,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of sweeping the Red Sox. “It was a great series for us. We won all kinds of different games. We played well and it’s got to help morale. They understood the importance of that series. … Our guys went in with a chip on their shoulders.”
If the Red Sox (69-51) enter this series with a chip on their shoulders, that could spell trouble for the Yankees. Boston has scored 42 runs in winning all six meetings between the clubs at Fenway this season, and also won the final matchup there last September.
“It’s going to be an absolute battle all three games,” said Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher(notes), batting .211 against the Red Sox in his first season in New York. “It’s going to be fun. They’re a good team. We’re a good team. It’s at their place and they want to send a message.”
The Red Sox had dropped nine of 13, but appeared to right their ship this week with a three-game sweep in Toronto. The distance between them and the Yankees is now 6 1/2 games, the same as it was when they left the Bronx.
J.D. Drew(notes) went 4 for 4 with two homers in Thursday night’s 8-1 victory and Victor Martinez(notes) went deep for the second straight contest as Boston hit multiple home runs for the sixth game in a row.
“It seems like when one guy gets hot, a lot of guys get hot,” Drew said. “The key is to try and keep going as a team, get quality at-bats, getting guys in in key situations.”
The Yankees will send Andy Pettitte(notes) (9-6, 4.09 ERA) to the mound for the series opener. The veteran left-hander has given up two runs or fewer in each of his last four starts, but has a mere 1-0 record to show for it as he’s received a total of six runs in support during that span. He limited the Mariners to two runs over six innings last Friday, but did not record a decision in New York’s 4-2 victory.
Pettitte threw seven scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Aug. 9, though he didn’t get credit for the Yankees’ eventual 5-2 win. He’s 16-9 with a 3.63 ERA in 34 appearances versus Boston.
The Red Sox counter with Brad Penny(notes) (7-7, 5.22), who is 0-3 with a 7.54 ERA over his last four starts. He didn’t face the Yankees earlier this month but threw six shutout innings against them June 11, when he didn’t get the decision in Boston’s 4-3 win. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees.