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With the division lead at stake, and both teams coming off road sweeps (Boston of the O's and New York of the Rangers), this series promises to be an exciting one. Or at least, as exciting as any May matchup can be.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Johnny Damon: Damon went 0-for-4 in his return to Fenway. Will his struggles continue against his old team in the Bronx?
Robinson Cano: The most successful Yankee hitter in the Fenway game, he went 2-for-4 with two of the Yankees' three RBI. Will he save the day this week in the Bronx?
David Ortiz: The Red Sox DH went 3-for-4 in that first matchup, with four RBI. How will he do against the top of the Yankees rotation?
Mike Lowell: The new third baseman has been on a bit of a tear lately, with 17 doubles on the season and a .339 average heading into New York. Can he keep up this flair against the Bronx Bombers?
GAME ONE (Tue.):
Josh Beckett (3-1, 4.86) @ Randy Johnson (5-2, 5.02)
Beckett has certainly been struggling of late, but hopefully returning to the site of the 2003 World Series, in which he pitched a complete game shutout against the Yankees, will re-invigorate him. This will be his chance to get back on track in a big way - at least if his offense can get the job done against Johnson. Which pitcher is better at this point is certainly a toss-up. Johnson was highly successful against the Red Sox last year, even as he struggled elsewhere. His five wins played a major role in the divisional race in 2005; will he be able to continue that success against the revamped Red Sox? That remains to be seen.
GAME TWO (Wed.):
Curt Schilling (5-1, 3.02) @ Mike Mussina (5-1, 2.35)
Schilling is certainly a big game pitcher, as is Mussina. Both pitchers are off to a great start (for Schilling, it's the best of his career). This should be a great pitching matchup - but with the two offenses on the table in this series, one team could still break it wide open.
GAME THREE (Thur.):
Tim Wakefield (2-4, 3.97) @ Shawn Chacon (4-1, 3.94)
Wakefield got back on track when Doug Mirabelli and the Yankees returned to Fenway, even though he didn't get credit for the win. Coming off that performance, he should be energized for Thursday's game against New York, a team against which he's had success in the past. However, Yankees starter Shawn Chacon has recovered after some early season struggles. Since both these pitchers can be real hit or miss, this game has the serious potential to be broken wide open by one of the two teams. Wakefield will have to control the long ball, while Chacon will have to hope for a decent performance against Boston (ERA over past three years against the Sox: 12.71).
BATTLE OF THE CLOSERS:
Jonathan Papelbon (0-1, 12 saves, 00.50 ERA) vs. Mariano Rivera (0-2, 6 saves, 2.77 ERA)
Rookie sensation Jonathan Papelbon is coming into Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox closer for the first time, while Yankee veteran Mariano Rivera will likely make his first appearance against Boston in this series. Who will prevail?
Since 2002 the Red Sox have proven to be Rivera's greatest weakness - he has a 2.97 ERA and a 4-3 record against Boston. Papelbon has only tossed 2.2 innings against New York in two games, allowing no runs thus far. He bounced back well from his only loss this season, throwing another perfect save the next game.
Mon 05/08/06, 8:48 am EST