It's been a while since Red Sox fans have had reason to care what happens on the field. Aside from individual performances from players who could impact the team in the future, these past few weeks have been a mishmash of putrid displays put on by a team that is the Boston Red Sox in name only.
That's probably a good thing, given how awful the performances have been. That being said, however, this group of 31 men--a group that will be mercilessly forgotten in a few years' time--has a chance to at least leave some mark on the 2012 season. They can do that by playing spoiler, and doing so against the one team Sox fans would like to see fall more than any other.
At 79-61, the 2012 New York Yankees are a much better team than the 2012 Red Sox. But they're not so invulnerable as they once seemed. A double digit lead on the division has fallen to a paltry one. Their wild card spot has just three games of padding beneath it. The Red Sox know what it's like to lose a much more secure position, and if they can't get back to the playoffs this year, there's no sweeter ending than to make the Yankees experience the same shameful collapse that they endured in 2011.
They'll have their chance to contribute to that collapse, or to help the Yankees recover over the next three games. For one brief moment, the games count again. If they're ever going to put up a fight, now is the time.
Boston Red Sox (63-78) vs. New York Yankees (79-61)
Tuesday, September 11, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Jon Lester (9-11, 4.99 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.14 ERA)
It doesn't look great by the numbers, but this isn't an awful matchup for the Red Sox. They've had one great game against him, one awful, and while those were both with the old roster, it helps that Kuroda has been vulnerable in his last few outings, and that his bad game came in Fenway Park. Lester has also been vulnerable of late, but the last game he really excelled in came against none other than the Yankees. If he can pitch like he did in that game, the Sox will have a chance.
Wednesday, September 12, 7:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (3-9, 5.17 ERA) vs. David Phelps (3-4, 3.55 ERA)
Aaron Cook against a good lineup like New York's is likely to be ugly, but David Phelps is clearly wavering under the workload of a starting pitcher. If the Sox end up facing him, they could manage to keep up with the Yankees early on and hope that their staunch bullpen can win the day. If it's Ivan Nova who takes the mound instead, it's anyone's guess. He's been absolutely awful of late, but if it was healthy that was bringing him down, he's capable of solid innings.
Thursday, September 13, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Felix Doubront (10-8, 5.21 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (14-12, 4.13 ERA)
If Felix Doubront is any indication, however, then Nova will just be running into more trouble. His time off didn't help him any, and while he rejects the idea of fatigue, the Sox are now far too late in shutting him down. Hopefully the Sox will get a win or two in the first couple of games, because Doubront is miserable right now, and with Phil Hughes going up against a decrepit Boston lineup, there's little hope for game three.