The Red Sox will celebrate Fenway Park's centennial Friday as they prepare to take on their arch rivals in the New York Yankees.
If ever the Sox have been in need of a wake up call...well, that was last September, or last April, but now seems like a pretty great time for one all the same. After a 4-8 start, the Sox can't afford to wait to turn the jets on. They're not hitting consistently, the bullpen is in tatters, and every other start seems to bring a new disaster.
If this series doesn't provide some sort of life, then the Sox can quickly find themselves in a worse position than they were even last year, when they stood at 5-10 through 15 games. While it's not exactly the best comparison to make given the result of that campaign, the fact is that they did overcome that poor start--they just didn't finish the job. Then again, this team doesn't necessarily have the same talent level as that one, and they're already down Jacoby Ellsbury for the next month if not longer.
Still, a sweep here, and it's suddenly just one game to .500. Miracles can happen, right?
Boston Red Sox (4-8) vs. New York Yankees (7-6)
Friday, April 20, 3:15 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (1-0, 9.82 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.15 ERA)
It's been a tough time for Clay Buchholz as he tries to return from injury, allowing seven runs in his first outing and four in the first inning of his second. The good news, however, is that he really turned it around after that one bad frame, making his way through the seventh and retiring the last eight batters he faced.
Ivan Nova has started 2012 pitching a lot like he did throughout 2011, except with ridiculously good peripherals so far. Striking out 15 batters in 13 innings, Nova nonetheless allowed four earned runs in six innings against the Angels in his last outing. The Sox' lineup has been inconsistent so far this year, but can get to a fastball-curveball pitcher like Nova.
Saturday, April 21, 4:05 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.97 ERA)
Felix Doubront's biggest problems early on this year have been about stamina, throwing just five innings in each of his first two outings. In his last outing, he was even looking downright dominant until the Rays got to him in the fifth for three runs. Still, he's been the Red Sox' lucky charm this year, with the Sox winning each of his two starts, and if he can start getting some quicker outs he could prove a truly valuable piece. Unfortunately, the Yankees aren't the sort of team that makes quick outs.
Freddy Garcia is starting to look a lot like how Freddy Garcia should look, which is bad news for the Yankees. After surprising everyone in 2011 by managing to survive in the AL East, Garcia has been touched up in each of his first two outs, and frankly it wouldn't be surprising if that trend continued throughout the year. The Red Sox will do their best to keep his troubles going Saturday, but they've both dominated and been dominated by the garbage baller before.
Sunday, April 22, 8:05 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (0-2, 4.63 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (1-0, 5.59 ERA)
It's weird, but Daniel Bard's best pitching resulted in a lot of runs, and his worst pitching resulted in just one. Left in to face the best part of the Rays' lineup without the ability to command his fastball, the Red Sox' fifth starter allowed the winning run to come across with a walk last time, but otherwise kept the Rays off the board. Showing excellent command of both his pitches in his debut, Bard had ground ball after ground ball go through the infield for hits. If he has his fastball command back, and the infield doesn't fall apart, then hopefully Bard will put together the best parts of both outings as he faces another ace.
The ace in question, CC Sabathia, has actually not had the best time of things over his first three starts. While he's never been particularly dominated, giving up 12 runs to the lineups of the Twins, Orioles, and Rays is not how Sabathia wanted to start. Up against a bigger challenge in the Sox and their lefty mashers, the Yankees ace could be hard pressed to turn it around. Then again, he's risen to the occasion many times before.