Red Sox-Yankees Preview
Terry Francona’s solution for how the Boston Red Sox can hold on
to their shrinking wild-card lead sounds simple. It’s the execution
of it that continues to be a problem.
Looking to snap a three-game skid, the sinking Red Sox conclude
their season series with the archrival New York Yankees in a
day-night doubleheader Sunday in the Bronx.
After winning its first six games at Yankee Stadium this year,
Boston (88-69) hoped its success in New York would continue and
allow it to halt its ongoing September collapse. Instead, the AL
East champion Yankees scored six times in the second inning en
route to a 9-1 win Saturday, dropping the Red Sox to 5-17 this
While the victory and Detroit’s loss later in the day secured
homefield advantage throughout the AL playoffs for New York
(96-61), Boston’s wild-card lead fell to 1 1/2 games after Tampa
Bay beat Toronto. The teams could be tied with three games left if
the Red Sox are swept in the doubleheader and the Rays win
Boston ends the regular season at Baltimore, while the Rays host
Regardless of opponent, Francona knows what his team must
“It’s up to us to go win,” he said. “We know what’s in front of
us, we just have to play better.”
That has not been easy for the Red Sox, who are 4-15 since
holding a nine-game wild-card lead over Tampa Bay on Sept. 4.
“That’s surprising,” manager Joe Girardi told the Yankees’
official website. “I don’t think any of us could have predicted
that because of the talent.”
Boston’s starting pitching has been perhaps the biggest concern,
as the rotation has posted a 7.35 ERA over the last 19 games. With
the struggling pair of Tim Wakefield and John Lackey set to pitch
Sunday, Jon Lester did not help matters by giving up eight runs in
2 2-3 innings Saturday.
Scheduled to start the first game, Wakefield (7-7, 5.08 ERA) has
gone 1-3 with a 6.21 ERA in his last six starts. After recording
his 200th victory Sept. 13, the knuckleballer allowed six runs in
five innings of an 8-5 loss to the Rays last Sunday.
The right-hander gave up five runs in 5 1-3 innings but came out
ahead in an 11-6 victory at Yankee Stadium on June 8.
Lackey (12-12, 6.49) is 0-3 with a 9.12 ERA in his last five
starts. He gave up eight runs and 11 hits in 4 1-3 innings of an
18-9 win over Baltimore on Monday.
“I’m pretty frustrated,” Lackey said.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 6.50 ERA in three starts against
New York this season – all at Fenway Park. He has gone 0-1 and
allowed nine runs over 12 innings in his last two regular season
starts in the Bronx.
New York will send A.J. Burnett (10-11, 5.28) to the mound in
the first game and Ivan Nova in the nightcap. While Nova (16-4,
3.62) is the likely Game 2 starter for the AL division series,
Burnett’s postseason fate remains uncertain.
Burnett lasted four innings and allowed four runs despite
striking out eight in a 6-4 win over Minnesota on Monday. The
right-hander, who has recorded 19 strikeouts over his last two
outings, is 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts versus Boston this
Nova allowed six hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 5-0 victory over
Tampa Bay on Tuesday, moving to 12-0 with a 3.09 ERA in his last 15
Though the Yankees expect Nova to be a key contributor in
October, he’s trying not to look too far ahead.
“I just know about the season right now,” said Nova, who leads
all rookies in wins. “There’s a lot of things that are coming next.
It’s going to be exciting.”
Nova, however, struggled in his only 2011 start versus Boston,
giving up four runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-4 win at Fenway on
Highly regarded rookie Jesus Montero has gone 6 for 7 with a
homer and six RBIs in his last two games. He’s batting .346 with
four home runs and 12 RBIs in 15 games since making his major
league debut Sept. 1.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia each had two hits for the Red
Sox on Saturday. The two players are a combined 20 for 43 over the
last six games.