Hiroki Kuroda has been everything the New York Yankees could have hoped for when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason.
Josh Beckett, on the other hand, hasn't come anywhere close to pitching like the ace the Boston Red Sox expect him to be.
These right-handers, emblematic of their teams' seasons, square off Sunday night at Yankee Stadium with Kuroda coming off a two-hit shutout against one of baseball's best lineups and Beckett trying to bounce back from another poor outing.
The beleaguered Red Sox (59-62) actually have a chance to win their second straight series in the Bronx following Saturday's 4-1 victory, but the pitching matchup certainly doesn't seem to favor them.
Kuroda (11-8, 3.06 ERA) dominated Texas on Tuesday, yielding two singles and two walks in a 3-0 victory. After a mediocre first two months with the Yankees, he's 8-2 with a 2.30 ERA in his last 15 starts.
"He's been really, really big for us and he could have a number of more wins. He's been the hard-luck guy for us this year," manager Joe Girardi said. "That was his 11th win for us. Realistically, he could have 15 or 16 at this juncture."
Kuroda has allowed three runs over 30 1-3 innings in his last four starts in the Bronx. He struggled at Fenway Park last month, but he pitched very well against the Red Sox at home July 29, allowing two runs in eight innings of New York's 3-2, 10-inning defeat.
Performances like that have been few and far between for Beckett (5-10, 5.19) this year. The Red Sox have gone 2-9 in his last 11 starts, and he has posted a 7.78 ERA in seven outings since the beginning of July.
Over his last two starts, Beckett has allowed 14 runs and five homers in 10 1-3 innings.
"It'd be nice to win a game," he told the Red Sox's official website after Tuesday's 7-1 loss at Baltimore. "I've got to pitch better. I can't put these guys in a hole like that."
That's exactly what he did against the Yankees on July 6, allowing five runs in the top of the first. The Red Sox scored five off Kuroda in the bottom of the inning, but eventually lost 10-8.
Oddly enough, pitching at Yankee Stadium may be a good thing for Beckett, who has won his last three starts there to improve to 9-3 lifetime in the Bronx - including his World Series-clinching shutout for the Marlins in 2003.
He'll try to follow a strong outing by Jon Lester, who stifled the Yankees for seven innings Saturday.
Adrian Gonzalez hit an early two-run homer - he's batting .373 with 39 RBIs in 33 games since the All-Star break - and Pedro Ciriaco went 4 for 4. Ciriaco is 15 for 29 (.517) against the Yankees this year.
He helped the Red Sox take two of three at Yankee Stadium from July 27-29, but they haven't been able to sustain any momentum as turmoil continues swirling around manager Bobby Valentine.
"I'm not doing a good job," Valentine said before Saturday's game. "I didn't get paid to do anything other than get to the playoffs, win a lot of games, be in the thick in things right down to the end, even be in first place."
New York (71-49) remains in first place, and its loss Saturday was just its third in 11 games.
Curtis Granderson homered for the second straight day and Nick Swisher had three hits. Swisher is 10 for 24 with four homers in six games on this homestand, and 16 for 33 (.485) with five homers and 14 RBIs in 10 games against Boston this year.
Mark Teixeira seems unlikely to return for the series finale after missing the first two games with a sore wrist.