Just one week ago, the New York Yankees were on a nice little run, having won 11 of their previous 16 games. They led the AL East by two games. No peeps were heard from any Steinbrenner around; peace and contentment reigned in the Bronx.
Tonight the Yankees, now a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East, find themselves losers of three of their last five games and, having allowed 17 runs to the visitors from Boston in the first two games of their series at Yankee Stadium, are faced with the prospect of winning tonight or getting swept in their home park by their bitterest rival and falling two games off the pace in the East.
It is with that in mind that they send their biggest (figuratively and literally) warrior to the mound tonight. Of course, it's CC Sabathia's turn in the rotation anyway. But let's not let facts get in the way of a great narrative -- MLB Network wouldn't have it otherwise! And, just to continue the "great pitching matchup as sheer coincidence" meme, Josh Beckett will take the mound for Boston.
This is not the first time these two hurlers have met this season; in fact, it will be the third such matchup. Both of the previous meetings have been all Boston. On April 10 at Fenway Park, Beckett threw eight shutout innings, struck out ten Yankees and allowed just two harmless singles in a 4-0 Boston victory. Six more Beckett scoreless frames followed on May 14 at Yankee Stadium; that day, the Bosox scorched Sabathia for six runs, the crowning blow Adrian Gonzalez's three-run homer that put the game away. Final score: Boston 6, New York 0.
So there's a lot at stake here for the Yankees, beyond just one game up or down in the mid-June standings. It's taking back what they believe to be rightfully theirs, the dominance of the series over their rivals from the Fens. However, the Bostonians have made a definitive statement thus far in the 2011 season. The teams have met eight times already in this season barely a third completed, and the pinstripers from New York have won but once, a 9-4 pasting of the Red Sox on April 9. The Red Sox have won all five meetings in New York so far this season.
Gauntlets thus thrown, the clubs begin play at 7 p.m. ET; of course, it can be viewed nationwide on the MLB Network.