How important is this Yankees series?

Joel Trunfio
Contributing Writer

Very few people predicted that the Red Sox would do well this season, so fans should be quite pleased that only two teams in baseball have more wins than the Sox. However, if there is reason to be pessimistic, it's by looking at the rest of the AL East.

The Orioles are hanging around at two and a half games back, and the Rays' offense has brought them back to life as they sit three games back. If you thought the Blue Jays were division front-runners, then shame on you; they're eight games under .500, and nine and a half games back. With all of the injuries that the Yankees faced coming into the year (Jeter, Teixeira, A-Rod, Granderson, Michael Pineda), it was easy to write them off as non-contenders. Unfortunately, the Yankees have been winning games thanks to unlikely contributors (Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner). Although they just got swept by the Mets, the Yankees sit two games back from the Sox, and only one in the loss column.

To make matters worse, reinforcements are arriving as soon as tonight for the Bombers. Teixeira is returning to the lineup tonight, and although his power was not necessarily missed, he's an improvement over Overbay. Kevin Youkilis will also make his return tonight, replacing David Adams at third. Jeter won't be back until after the All-Star Break, and Granderson will be back in about a month. The player who could potentially bring the most upside to the Yankees is Pineda, who will make his New York debut sometime in June. 

The Yankees have gotten amazing production from scrap parts while their starters have been healing up; it's too bad that they are essentially in the same place as the Sox in the standings. Considering that on paper the Yankees should only get better, this three game series becomes that much more important for Boston. The two teams stack up very similarly, but if the Sox could win two of three, or even sweep the series it would give us some breathing room, and make Yankee fans start to panic. After this series, the Sox still have nine game against the Yankees at Fenway -- their next match-up isn't until July. 

The pitching match-ups for the series should make for some tight games. Jon Lester faces CC Sabathia tonight, Felix Doubront faces Phil Hughes Saturday, and barring any setbacks, Clay Buchholz will return to face Hiroki Kuroda.

I suppose fans should be happy if the Sox left New York with a one game lead in the division (meaning the Yankees take the series 2-1), but it sure would be sweet to start the month of June with a sweep and a five game lead over New York.

What's your series prediction? Leave a comment below.