Another chapter in the Sox-Yankees rivalry has just been written. A fantastic September series between the two teams saw all that this rivalry has to offer. In a year where these two teams could meet in the ALCS again, we saw it all. Okajima/Papelbon blow a 7-2 lead and the Yankees have a come from behind thriller. Josh Beckett beat Chin Ming Wang for sole possession of the wins lead, leaving him as one of the frontrunners in the AL Cy Young race. Boston’s bats came alive in a 10-1 rout. Schilling and Clemens matched off in a spectacular pitchers duel. Derek Jeter continues to show the world he can get it done with a 3-run homer that would win it for the Yankees. Rookie Joba Chamberlin’s scoreless streak ends at the hands of Mike Lowell. The Sox score off of Marino Rivera in the Bottom of the 9th, load the bases, and get David Ortiz to the plate with 2 out, only to have him pop out to end it.
I mean this is the kind of epic storyline that makes this rivalry so fantastic. The Yankees took 2/3 from the Red Sox. That may make it seem like the Yankees are a better team, but here’s what I saw this weekend that makes me think the Red Sox still have the edge over the Yankees in a 7 game series.
The Red Sox had 3 superb outings. I use the term superb, not because they were Cy Young performances, but because they were against the Yankees.
Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 5.2 innings of 2 run ball. He got into jams, and he worked himself out. He had 7 K’s in his short outing, most (if not all) were on his fastball, the same pitch that was getting him knocked around for that 12.bad ERA and the streak of bad outings. Daisuke used his off speed stuff much better against these Yankees, and it made his fastball better. Daisuke will be on 6 days rest for his next few starts because of off days, so look for his pitch efficiency to get better and any signs of fatigue to fade. This guy is still the #3 starter.
Josh Beckett. Need I say more? This guy is the Ace of the staff this year, and should start Game 1 in any series. He stifled the Yanks for 5 baserunners over 7 innings with 7 K’s. One of those baserunners was his only hiccup of the game, a Jeter home run in the first inning.
Curt Schilling pitched very well. For a guy whose heat is cooling off, Schilling is becoming a more masterful pitcher with his other pitches. He kept the Yankees to 1 run into the 8th inning. Yeah so he gave up a 3 run shot to Jeter in the 8th. He’s DEREK JETER! He is going to do that now and then. Great show by Schilling and I’m not afraid to have this guy start Game 2 in a playoff series.
If you look at the Yankees, we tagged 2 of their starters very well. Clemens was the only guy we couldn’t get a few off of, but he only went 6 innings. That was the longest performance by any Yankee starter. Burn out your pen like that in a playoff series and you won’t be getting the save in a game 6 or 7. Advantage Red Sox.
Congratulations to the Yankees for beating Okajima/Papelbon to overcome a 7-2 game. A rare feat. Don’t get your hopes up though because this won’t be the norm. You won that specific game, but at least 90% of the time, that game is a Sox win and you can’t count on winning the game against these guys.
Oki will get more rest as we close out the season, they won’t burn him out. Papelbon will be more ferocious next time you see him, feeding off the adrenaline you have so kindly provided him with. Don’t look now, but even Gagne held you to two scoreless innings in this series. Fill out that pen with Timlin, Delcarmen, and a possible Buchholz addition to the postseason roster, I’ll take a 1-0 lead any day.
That’s it. This defense deserves some credit. Most of the year, they have been riding under the radar. Not many errors, not much in the way of spetacular. Just kind of there.
I’m changing that. These guys are fantastic. You can’t even count the number of times Dustin Pedroia has robbed guys of hits. Mike Lowell is making great plays all over the place, even if the guy is still safe (stole a double from Jeter by snagging one over the line. Kept Jeter to an infield single.) Coco Crisp and Jacoby Ellsbury have made some excellent outfield catches and their speed only works to their advantage. JD Drew and Manny aren’t even bad defensively either! Drew has speed and Manny always seems to wow you when you think he can’t play defense. Lugo has speed and Youk has his errorless streak. Crisp, Pedroia, and Youk all could be in gold glove discussions. These guys are GOOD! They are second in the league in defense for a reason and I think it’s about time they earned some credit. Defense was a huge part of the ’04 club and it should not be overlooked in this years run.
Okay, so the Red Sox aren’t #1 here. They aren’t going to score 10 runs every game, but certainly can. The Sox batters did what they did best this weekend. They grinded out at bats, they made the pitchers work, and they got themselves in situations where they could win. If you can’t create these situations you have nothing but the home-run to save you.
It took the Yankees Derek Jeter to win last night. There was no other offensive hero. Jeter hit the home run off Beckett the day before. Jeter is a hugely talented All-Star and will continue to do this.
The Red Sox don’t need too. Every one of our guys can put together a situation. A walk, a hit by pitch, a stolen base, a bloop single. Any of these things are huge because this team has so many tools. Think about the 9th last night. Julio Lugo gets a double with 2 out off of proven closer Mariano Rivera to get the Sox within one. ROOKIES Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia reach base with a hit by pitch and a walk. Those aren’t the David Ortiz’s, Derek Jeter’s, or Alex Rodriguez’s of the world. They fill out the team and they do it well. All of these guys can make things happen, and last night, almost did.
I’m not telling you the Yankees can’t win. On any given day, any given team can win. A lesser team can beat a better team, even in a 7 game playoff series. That’s what we saw this weekend, the lesser team (though not by much) coming through for some wins. I am telling you though, that the Red Sox are the better team. They have the tools, the weapons, and the ability to make it happen. They have more ways to win, and will do so well into the playoffs.