The Red Sox and Yankees will renew their rivalry Friday night when they kick off a three-game set in New York, but will do so coming from very different places in their seasons.
For the Yankees, it's a chance to reassert their position as the best in the division and perhaps even the game.
It's also a chance for some exceptional schadenfreude--there's little better feeling than ending an arch-rival's season.
This opportunity comes, of course, because the Red Sox took a big opportunity, having come out of the gates with a 5-2 record in the second half, and squandered it, going 1-5 against the Blue Jays and a Rangers team with a very depleted pitching staff. As a result, they enter this series one game under .500, a full ten games out of the division lead, and on the verge of the abyss.
All hey can hope for now is a miracle in the Bronx.
Boston Red Sox (49-50) at New York Yankees (59-39)
Friday, July 27, 7:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Aaron Cook (2-3, 3.50 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (9-8, 4.09 ERA)
For Aaron Cook, this start could end up as an audition. If the Sox should come out on the wrong side of this series, Cook could be a tempting trade target for a number of teams looking for a cheap, effective starter who just needs a decent defensive infield behind him to play in any park. That interest could evaporate, however, if he's shown up by a strong Yankees lineup. New York's greatest strength lies in the homer, however, and if there's one pitcher who's built to avoid that right now, Aaron Cook might be that man.
After a dismal start to the year, Phil Hughes has finally been following through on some of the potential he showed as a starter in his minor league career. A polar opposite of Cook, Hughes allows so many fly balls that it's a bit surprising to see how well he has fared in New Yankee Stadium with it's homer-friendly tendencies. That's will be his biggest concern against a Red Sox team that will have it's biggest power hitters happy to see some more righties.
Saturday, July 28, 4:05 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30 ERA)
At the top of his game, Jon Lester was arguably the better of these two top lefties. Today it's not even close: where Lester has been completely unable to find his rhythm on the mound this season, looking worse and worse each time out, Sabathia has entirely consistent--almost a carbon copy of his 2011 self. He's been solid in his first two starts back from injury, and against a Sox team that hasn't even been hitting minor-league lefties, he's a daunting opponent.
Sunday, July 29, 8:05 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (10-5, 4.54 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA)
Doubront's outings had been lacking a feeling of sustainability of late, as he seemed to dodge bullets through luck and good timing more than anything else. All that came to an abrupt end in Texas, as the Rangers got to him for six runs in five innings, once again making Sox fans question if Doubront had hit the wall in his first major league season as a starter. He did a decent job against the Yankees earlier in July, but right now he seems headed in the wrong direction.
Strong outings against Toronto and Seattle have Hiroki Kuroda back on track after a couple of difficult games, but given that the Red Sox' seven-run attack against him on July 6 started that mini-slump, they'll have some hope of a repeat in New York. They've shown the ability to hit Kuroda, but that was with Ortiz, at a time when the offense was running a bit better than it has of late.