Series Preview: Red Sox (9-6) @ Yankees (8-8)

All of a sudden, the incredibly hyped Yankees team have found themselves faltering early on as the Red Sox, while not in first place, are looming right above them in the standings. In a rare instance in the history of this rivalry, Boston has to feel like they're in the driver seat after taking 3-4 from New York last week while the Yankees still struggle to stay above .500. It is still too early to panic, but the Yankees have to be looking at this as a significant series in their season.

As it has been stated over and over again in the early going of the 2004 season, the Yankees are still not playing the type of baseball that they are accustomed to or the kind that is expected from them. While they did take 2 out of 3 from the Chicago White Sox, they showed signs of falling back into their previous troubles in the series finale. So far, their bullpen has been their strongest point and that is one thing they can really point to as a positive. Little by little, the potentially explosive lineup is starting to show signs of pulling out of it. Alex Rodriguez has made great strides in pulling out of his early season tailspin and Jorge Posada has continuously carried this offense early on. Mike Mussina struggled in the early going in his start against Chicago but ended up with a pretty solid outing, going 8 innings. However many of their top hitters such as Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield have yet to hit their stride.


With the continuous struggles and inconsistency so far this season, no one can expect such a talent loaded team to continue to play like this. But for now, something needs to be done as they are now back against the Boston Red Sox. This is the team that everyone has matched up and compared all winter long but as of now, the Sox have outplayed the Yankees. In the upcoming 3 game weekend series, New York will look at it as a possible turning point or a kick start for their season but also just to get the team playing the way they should.


By no means is this a must win situation for the Yankees in this series, but boy it is pretty close to it. In the minds of the Yankees they look to win every game but these games will be especially important to them as they do not want to drop the first to series in a row to the Red Sox. The time has also come when Alex Rodriguez is going to start hitting. He was on the verge of it in Chicago but it appears that he is geared for an outburst in his return to the Bronx. Being the player that he is, A-Rod is the type of guy that can carry an offense on his back. So what a time it would be for him to really get that stick of his to work. Joe Torre even attempted to shake up the lineup a few times but plugging Bubba Crosby into the lineup  along with Ruben Sierra and Miguel Cairo. Perhaps some tweaking would do a struggling team some good.


Yankees Home Record: 3-2

Red Sox Road Record: 4-3


Pitching Probables:


Friday: Jose Contreras (0-1, 9.39) vs. Derek Lowe (1-1, 9.35)

Jose Contreras continues to baffle. No, not with his nasty stuff but with his inconsistency and his growing enigmatic aura. It is always hard to tell what the Yankees will get from Contreras when he takes the ball. One thing is for sure though, it is always nerve racking when Contreras is facing Boston. In his career, he is 0-2 with a lifetime ERA of 20.27. Confidence and aggressiveness are two major keys with Contreras. If he is confident and is throwing that blazing fastball with his electric stuff, it would be a long night for any team including Boston. So the question is which Jose Contreras will we see.


After complaining after his last start against New York that 10 days rest was much too long and blaming that for his poor performance, Derek Lowe will look to get back into his sinkerballer rhythm. If his sinkerball is working it could be a very long game for the Yankees and their bats. Last week, he couldn't last out of the third against the Bombers but don't expect the same for this one.


Saturday: Kevin Brown (3-0, 2.33 vs. Bronson Arroyo (0-1, 7.11)

By far, Kevin Brown has been the best pitcher for the Yankees so far this season. There is also no doubt that if he is healthy, he could remain in that classification all year long. Brown has been nothing but superb. In his last start against Boston, he pitched a very solid game but took a no decision. While he was not spectacular at all, he turned in a solid 6 inning effort in which he surrendered four runs. Nothing is there to make an argument to expect anything different from Brown this time around.


Arroyo has had a sub par start to his season but he did have possibly his best start of the season in his last start. Against the Yankees, Arroyo went 6 1/3, giving up four runs on eight hits. The second time, the Yankees may be more prone to jump on the 27 year old right hander. But until Byung-Hung Kim makes his return from the DL, the fifth spot in the rotation is Arroyo's spot to lose.


Sunday: Alex Graman (0-0, 16.88) vs. Pedro Martinez (3-1, 2.86)

Even though as of right now he is scheduled to start this game, there is a chance that the ball will not be handed to Alex Graman. It could be Javier Vazquez who would be on the hill on three days rest. Joe Torre has not ruled out either of those options. Graman was lit up like a Christmas tree in his first big league start against Chicago as he could not last through the third inning. After such an impressive start by Vazquez just a day later, Torre could be swayed to start him in such an important game.


Pedro Martinez, public enemy number one and all out villain in Yankee land. Pedro has not looked right so far this year as he continues to show a lack of velocity on his fastball. I'll tell you what. If he does not bring the true Pedro stuff to this game, it will be a long night for him.


Predictions and Prognostications:

Anything could happen in the pitching match up for game one unless the Yankee bats come alive it could be a rough one off Derek Lowe. I see the Yankees taking game two with great ease with Kevin Brown on the mound facing an inexperienced pitcher in Bronson Arroyo. If Alex Graman gets the start against Pedro on Sunday, it most likely won't be a pretty day for the Yankees. If Vazquez takes the mound though it may be just the opposite.

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