Series Preview: Yankees (47-26) vs Red Sox (42-32)

Subway Series? What Subway Series? Here's where the real drama comes from, and this time it counts. Just like all the other times. No, it's not the All-Star Game, it's the return of the Boston Red Sox to Yankee Stadium. The last time the Beantowners came this way they swept the Yankees at home. With neither team playing up to their full potentials, anything can happen.

Ever since the Red Sox left Yankee Stadium on April 26, they haven't been meeting expectations.  Don't get me wrong, they're still a dangerous team that is capable of winning games in a myriad of ways, but they suffer from some of the same problems as the Yankees themselves do.  Like the Yanks, Boston's starting pitching has been more erratic than everyone was expecting.  Curt Schilling has been his usual self, but Pedro looks pedestrian and Derek Lowe has all but exploded this year.  Since that sweep, the Sox are 30-26, and they're barely above .500 baseball since May began.  

Good news for the Yankees, Jason Giambi says he'll be back in time for Tuesday's game.  Giambi has been sidelined with flu-like symptoms and had to go to the hospital during the series with the Mets.  His return may not even really be a good thing for the Yanks though, as the slugger wasn't hitting anything while he was in the lineup.  Giambi is hitting just .167 (10/60) in June with a paltry two home runs.  The odd thing is that he's walking more this month than he was when he hit .310 in May.  Either way, he's in a terrible slump.

Boston/New York is always a pleasure to watch.  Right now, both teams seem to be coasting along, and this will hopefully be the jump start that both teams need to get back on track.

Yankees Home Record: 25-10        Last 10:  5-5
Red Sox Road Record: 25-14          Last 10:  5-5

Key Matchups:  Millar vs. Vazquez: 3/17, six strikeouts... Ramirez vs. Vazquez: 3/6, two home runs... Millar vs. Lieber: 7/15, home run... Reese vs. Lieber: 1/14, four strikeouts... Jeter vs. Lowe: 14/46... Williams vs. Lowe: 10/32, home run... Lofton vs. Lowe: 7/17, home run... Matsui vs. Lowe: 9/16, home run, 9 RBI... Giambi vs. Wakefield: 13/60, 12 walks, 11 strikeouts... Jeter vs. Wakefield: 16/45, three home runs... Rodriguez vs. Wakefield: 9/35, 11 strikeouts... Jeter vs. Martinez: 15/67, 20 strikeouts... Posada vs. Martinez: 9/49, 29 strikeouts... Giambi vs. Martinez: 7/42, 18 strikeouts.

Probable Pitchers:

Tuesday: Derek Lowe (6-6, 5.24) vs. Javier Vazquez (8-5, 3.38)
Lowe, in the midst of a terrible season, is actually on something of a hot streak.  He is 2-1 in his last four starts, with a 2.07 ERA.  He lost to the Twins in his last start.  Lowe's problems can be directly attributed to two very telling stats: 93 hits allowed in 77.1 innings and 35 walks to just 39 strikeouts.  He's not the ace people thought he was.

Vazquez has been far-and-away the best pitcher in the Yankee's rotation this season.  Nobody else is really even close.  Vaz leads the AL in WHIP and is third in opponent's batting average.  The idea is simple: the fewer baserunners allowed, the fewer runs scored.  It's really just math.  Vazquez hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts, during which time he is 3-1 with a 2.38 ERA.

Wednesday: Tim Wakefield (4-5, 4.59) vs. Jon Lieber (5-5, 5.26)
Wakefield tends to give Yankee batters the fits with his knuckleball, and he did just that in his only start against them this season.  Only Jeter seems to hit him very well.  Wakefield looked awful in two of his last three starts, but he spun a nice game (one earned run in 7.2 innings) against the Twins last Thursday.

Lieber's been quite literally hit-or-miss this season.  If his control is there, and he's hitting his spots, he's great.  If he's too over the plate, he's horrible.  Lieber has still walked just four batters this year, a mind-boggling number, but he's allowed 81 hits in 63.1 innings, a number that is extremely poor.

Thursday: Pedro Martinez (8-3, 3.73) vs. Brad Halsey (1-1, 8.00)
Pedro hasn't been dominating this season, probably due to some lost velocity, but he's still been a very good pitcher.  He has the third most strikeouts in the AL and still doesn't really walk anybody.  Pedro shut down the Yanks earlier this year, striking out seven over seven shutout innings back on April 25 to cap that sweep.  He hasn't lost since May 16.

Halsey is the likely guy to start this game, barring a miracle comeback from Kevin Brown.  The rookie was kicked around by the Mets in his last start, dropping his record to 1-1 and inflating his ERA to an even 8.00.  If he does start this game, Halsey becomes the first real Yankee rookie (not counting Contreras, Orlando Hernandez or Hideki Irabu) to start three games in a season since Ramiro Mendoza did it back in 1996.

Predictions and Prognostications:
Let's put it this way.  Boston comes into town five and a half games back of the Yankees.  If the Yankees sweep, Boston will find themselves in a very very bad position.  If Boston sweeps, then this race gets even more interesting.  I don't think either team can sweep this series, though.  The Yankees have a clear edge in Tuesday's game, and Boston has a clear advantage in Thursday's game.  For me, the Wakefield/Lieber match up will be the key.  Boston has already won six of the seven games in this season series, so let's see the Yanks take two of three.

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