The Yankees have won the series. They will go to bed tonight no fewer than 4.5 games ahead in the AL East. They’ve shaken the silly notion that they can’t beat the Sox, or that the Sox are in their heads. Those are all big victories, especially at this point in the season. Yet the Yankees must maintain the level of intensity they showed this weekend. While a sweep wouldn’t bury the Sox, it would certainly put them in a tough position with just 51 games left in their season.
The Sox will trot out their No. 2 man, Jon Lester, with a mission to hold the Yankees in check and give the Sox offense, anemic in the series thus far, a chance. He’s definitely one of the guys they want out there. While Lester struggled early in the season, posting a 6.07 ERA on May 26, he’s been pretty lights out since then, striking out 96 and walking 25 in 80.2 innings, over which he has a 2.12 ERA. Also working in Lester’s favor: he’s never lost to the Yanks, and the Sox have lost just two while he’s been pitching. one was a 6.2 inning, 8 strikeout, one run performance, and the other was a 3.2 inning, seven-run performance during the Boston Massacre II.
Taking the bump for the Yanks will be Andy Pettitte, who has pitched very well since the All-Star Break after stumbling into it with two horrible starts in a row. Pettitte has been the consummate fifth starter all season, mixing gems with clunkers, battling out of serious trouble, and all in all delivering the Yanks pretty much what they expected. Since the break he’s pitched 26.2 innings over four starts, allowing just seven runs on 20 hits, striking out 29 and holding opponents to a .546 OPS. Can he give the Yanks another quality start and set them up for the sweep?
And on the mound, number fourty-six, Andy Pettitte.