The rumblings are getting louder as a huge weekend series between the Yankees and Red Sox begins tonight.
The Red Sox are gaining confidence in their offense after two straight big come-from-behind wins, one from 7 runs down, the other from 4 runs down.
The last one was a thrilling walk off homer by David Ortiz; the first walk-off homer for the Red Sox all season. Big Papi was so clutch in all his previous seasons with the Red Sox, but was hitting poorly in clutch situations this year. As he rounded the first-base bag after hitting his second homer of the night (driving in all 5 runs the Sox scored), the NESN announcer, Don Orsillo, said "Mr. Clutch is back!". He couldn’t have said it better, and Papi couldn’t be getting hot at a better time.
Ortiz now has 10 home runs in his last 18 starts, a pace that projects to 90 over a 162 game season (assuming you play every day!). After such a slow start, there’s a chance he could end up with almost 40 homers on the season.
Looking ahead, we have some interesting pitching matchups, once again. Pettite goes against Matsusaka again. The way those 2 starters have been going lately, that should be an easy win for the Yankees. Matsusaka probably won’t be as bad as most will expect. Varitek and the entire coaching staff have been working with him on his confidence to throw his off-speed pitches in any count. He’s been too predictable with his fastballs, and getting them up in the zone. They worked on this specifically on Wednesday in a side session for Matsusaka. Still, the intensity of a game against the Yankees might cause him to lose confidence. However, I don’t think Varitek will let him fall into a predictable fastball pattern tonight.
The Yankees will probably win a game which is closer than you’d expect. I think it’ll probably be something like 4-2 Yankees after 6 innings, and not much more than that after 9. The Red Sox will have the benefit of their rabid home crowd on their side, and might be able to come back on the Yankees in the 7th inning, but that would be their only chance. It will also be interesting to see how the young pitcher Chamberlain responds to being loudly booed should he come on in the 8th inning. He seems like the type who can handle and thrive on pressure.
Saturday’s game is a matchup of two 18-6 Cy Young candidates, battling to be the first to 19 wins: Wang and Beckett. This is pretty much a draw, but I give the edge to the Red Sox simply because they’ll have the home crowd in a day game and will be tired of losing so many straight to the Yankees.
Sunday’s game will be at night due to the ESPN broadcast. Clemens vs. Schilling. Wow! Another great matchup. Two veteran future Hall-of-Famers who both came up through the Red Sox system, with Clemens pitching only the start of his career with Boston, and Schilling only the end of his career. This might be Clemens’ last start in Fenway ever. It will be emotional for him, I’m sure. The crowd will be in a frenzy with every little thing that happens in the game for or against Clemens. It’s tough to predict that game, given all the emotion that will be there, and the difficulty of figuring out how they’ll respond to it, but given their recent starts and Clemens’ elbow pain, I’ll give the edge to Schilling and the Red Sox.