Ever since January 1920, when then-Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000 and a loan of $300,000 for the mortgage on Fenway Park, the rivalry between the Sox and Yanks has been the most storied in all of professional sports.
Even today, whenever the two teams meet during the regular season, you can almost be assured that the majority of games are nationally televised on ESPN, FOX or the MLB Network.
The 2011 season has been no different. The Yankees currently hold a five and a half game lead over the Red Sox with just 8 games remaining for the Red Sox and 9 for the Yankees. The two teams will play a crucial three-game series at Yankee Stadium later this week from Sept. 23-25.
Ironically, the two teams are 1-2 in terms of offensive punch—the Yankees are first in the AL in home runs and second in runs scored, the Red Sox are third in home runs and first in runs scored.
And just as ironically, each team has questions concerning their pitching staffs, specifically in their starting rotations. While the Yankees have CC Sabathia at the top of their rotation, with a 19-8 record and 3.01 ERA, questions abound concerning the rest. Rookie Ivan Nova appears to have taken hold of the No. 2 spot, with a 15-4 record and 3.81 ERA, and has not lost since June 3, winning his last 11 decisions.
Beyond Sabathia and Nova however come the questions. While both Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon have both put up admirable numbers as reclamation projects (Garcia, 11-8, 3.77 ERA; Colon, 8-9, 3.55 ERA), Yankees’ management have concerns regarding their effectiveness during the postseason. Ditto for both Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Hughes, who started the season with an undiagnosed shoulder injury, is just 5-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 14 starts, and Burnett has been inconsistent throughout the season, with a 10-11 record and 5.28 ERA.
For the Red Sox, what looked like a solid starting rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka at the beginning of the season had turned into a relative quagmire.
Every single Sox pitcher in the rotation has missed at least one start due to injury—Matsuzaka is out for the season after opting for Tommy John surgery in June, Buchholz has been on the disabled list since June 17 with a stress fracture in his lower back, and just recently began a throwing program, so his return to the roster in time for the postseason is in jeopardy.
Beckett, who has been stellar on the mound with a 13-5 record and 2.5 ERA, was forced to miss a start recently when he sprained his ankle during his last start on Sept. 5 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Lester has been outstanding, with a 15-8 record and 3.15 ERA, and will clearly be the No. 1 starter for the Red Sox in the postseason. Provided Beckett’s ankle is fully healed, he will be their No. 2 option. However after that, much like the Yankees, the picture is indeed cloudy.
The Tampa Bay Rays will also play a major role in who wins the AL East. The Rays have seven games remaining with the Yankees. Considering the Rays are just four games behind the Red Sox in the race for the American League Wild Card, they will certainly be a key factor in the last weeks of the season.
No matter which team wins the American League East, as long as the Red Sox can hold off the Rays for the Wild Card, the Yankees and Red Sox could once again do battle in the postseason, and for just about every baseball fan in the Northeast corridor, that will indeed be must-see TV.
This is a guest post submitted by Jeff Herbst. Jeff has had a passion for sports ever since he could first walk and enjoys writing in his spare time. He works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class wood bats and custom wood bats for amateur and professional ball players around the world.