Rivalry renewed? Yanks on deck after All-Star break

Jan-Christian Sorensen
Contributing Writer

You know the bouts by heart, and by name: Boone blasting the no-doubter off Wake. Varitek serving A-Rod the leather sandwich. Pedro flipping Zimmer. Ortiz and Mueller both cracking Rivera’s impenetrable shell.

While the same sort of slow burning fire that regularly flared up back in 2003 or ’04 isn’t part of the Sox-Yanks rivalry a decade later, there’s always a certain mystique when the two teams square off.

As soon as the All-Star Break is finished, the Sox head back to the office and open a seven-game home stand at Fenway Park with three against their perennial, polarizing antagonists from Gotham.

It’s unlikely that lightning rod Alex Rodriguez — currently rehabbing a hip injury in the minor leagues and a major target for Major League Baseball in its ongoing investigation over performance-enhancing drugs and his ties to the Biogenesis clinic in Florida — will be on the roster. Ditto Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who returned from a broken ankle for one game last week before being lifted with a quad strain.

In the opener on Friday, the suddenly resurgent Felix Doubront (6-3, 3.91 ERA) takes on the ageless Andy Pettitte (7-6, 4.39 ERA). Doubront is 2-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his last five starts while striking out 25 over that stretch.

On Saturday, John Lackey (7-6, 2.78 ERA) faces Hiroki Kuroda (8-6, 2.65 ERA). Lackey, like Doubront, has been steadying the Sox rotation while ace Clay Buchholz has been on the disabled list with a neck injury and Jon Lester has struggled with control issues. Lackey has gone 4-1 in his last six starts with a 2.30 ERA, striking out 41 and allowing only 11 runs in 43 innings of work.

On Sunday, Lester (8-6, 4.58 ERA) will look to right his ship when he toes the rubber against CC Sabathia (9-8, 4.07 ERA). Lester has been the very definition of inconsistent in 2013 — winning six of his first nine games and posting a 2.72 ERA but struggling since, losing six of his next 11 and putting up an ERA of 6.27 over that stretch.

It'd be an understatement to say the Yankees have not been a beast in the American League East in 2013. New York is dead-last in the AL in doubles, second-worst in hits and third-worst in home runs, total bases, on-base percentage, slugging and RBI. The Yankees finished the first half scoring an average of 3.93 runs per game — the team’s lowest total since 1990, when the club lost 95 games.

The Sox, on the other hand, boast the best record in all of baseball at the break at 58-39 and hold all the offensive cards, leading the AL in doubles, triples, runs, total bases, RBI and OBP and ranking second in batting average and slugging.

On the mound, the Yanks sit third in the AL in ERA (3.74), with Boston seventh (3.91). The Sox rank second in the AL in quality starts, while New York is ninth. There’s not much disparity between the two in batting average against — Boston has held opponents to .250 in 2013, while the Yanks are sitting at .255.

So far in 2013, the Sox have fared well against their AL East foes in New York (4-2), Toronto (8-5) and especially Tampa Bay (9-3), but have stumbled against Baltimore, which owns a 2-5 record against Boston. The Sox play ten of their next 12 against AL East opponents, and 19 of 25 in September as the race to the postseason goes down to the wire.

Twitter: @jan_doh