In the span of six days, the Yankees won games in which Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, and Josh Beckett started for the opposition. That’s pretty good for a team scrutinized for beating up on mediocre competition and folding against stronger opponents (not that it really matters). They enter today’s game with plenty going for them: winners of five straight, holders of the best record in baseball, and to top it off are 4.5 games up in the AL East.
The pitching matchup today favors the Yankees as well. They’ll send out CC Sabathia, working on an extra day’s rest after a tough start in Chicago. It started off dicey, but CC calmed down and mowed down the Sox in the middle innings, holding down the fort so the Yankees offense could do their thing. He’ll have a chance at redemption against the Red Sox, who got to him in the eighth after he tossed seven brilliant innings last time around. If he pitches like he did after the third last week, the Yanks will be sitting pretty.
Taking the bump for the Sox is Clay Buchholz, who was recalled from AAA after the All-Star Break. He’s had some struggles in the early goings, hitting 5.2 IP twice and 4 IP in his other two starts. In fact, he hasn’t pitched six innings since August 4, 2008. That’s not good news for the Sox, who have used their bullpen a lot over the past four days. They need length out of Buchholz so they don’t have to dig into the pen again and hurt the team for tomorrow’s series finale.
Despite Buchholz’s relative ineffectiveness in 2009, you can’t count him out for this game. It’s the same deal as Scott Kazmir in the middle game of the Tampa series. He’d been struggling as well, but we know he’s not a bad pitcher. Ditto Buchholz. He’s not a bad pitcher by any stretch, and he knows how important this game is for his team. Lose it and they guarantee losing at least three out of four, with the chance for a sweep tomorrow night. It’s probably the most important start of his young career, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him step up and force a second straight pitcher’s duel.
The Sox are making the smart move today, trying to get their best offense into the mix. Youkilis is again in left, leaving room for Lowell at third, Kotchman at first, and Martinez behind the dish. That’s certainly better than any permutation with Varitek and Reddick in the lineup (though I do think Reddick can provide some pop, it’s better to sit him against CC). Both teams have a pitcher batting ninth, the Yanks with Molina and the Sox with Nick Green. All in all, it looks like the Yankees have the advantage with the lineup and with the pitchers.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, Carsten Charles Sabathia.