Game 21: Yankees at Red Sox - Ells returns, Tanaka gets first taste ofFenway

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

After losing three out of four in the Bronx, the Boston Red Sox get their turn to host the New York Yankees for the first time in 2014. Several familiar faces now play in pinstripes, one of them being a former member of two World Championship Red Sox teams. You know who I'm referring to - Jacoby Ellsbury.

That's just a subplot tonight, though. Red Sox ace Jon Lester faces off against the Bronx Bombers for the second time in three starts. Lester allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings last weekend in New York to pick up his first win of the season. He earned win No. 2 by scattering seven hits over eight innings, allowing one run and striking out nine against the White Sox. Lester comes in with a 2-2 record and a 2.17 ERA. He's allowed two earned runs or less in each of his four starts, all lasting at least 6 2/3 innings, and has struck out 29 while walking just four.

Here's the Red Sox lineup for tonight's game (first pitch - 7:10 pm ET):

1) Sizemore, RF
2) Pedroia, 2B
3) Ortiz, DH
4) Napoli, 1B
5) Gomes, LF
6) Pierzynski, C
7) Bogaerts, SS
8) Holt, 3B
9) Bradley Jr., CF

Lester, P

Masahiro Tanaka makes his first career start in Fenway Park and first against the Red Sox. It's a bitter rivalry that he's yet to face, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the situation. Tanaka has shown great control so far, with a 2-0 record through three starts. He's pitched at least seven innings each game and struck out 28 while walking two in 22 innings. Tanaka has recorded at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three Major League starts, joining Stephen Strasburg as the only two pitchers since 1900 to accomplish the feat (h/t Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch).

Pedroia plays pepper with the wall
It's always a good thing to see Dustin Pedroia hitting wall balls off the Green Monster. Each of the past two nights, he's provided a spark in the ninth inning with doubles to left. Pedroia went 0-for-4 in the series finale against the White Sox, dropping his average to .231. Since, he's gone 7-for-15, including three straight multi-hit games to raise his average to .275. His OPS has also risen from .546 to .701 in those four games.

Off on the wrong foot
In 2013, the Red Sox went 13-6 against the Yankees, their best record against New York since 1973. As noted, the Yanks have a 3-1 record so far this season with five series (including this one) to go. A three-game set at home is just what the doctor ordered. And these three games should be dandies with Lester going against Tanaka, John Lackey vs. Michael Pineda, and Felix Doubront vs.C.C. Sabathia in the series finale.

Mini-season No. 2 complete
After going 4-6 through the first 10 games of the season, the Red Sox went 5-5 in the second 10-game stretch. A slight improvement, but that's two 10-game spans gone and no winning record to show. On a positive note, Boston has won four of its last six games to pick up some steam, perhaps at the right time with Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks seemingly less than a week away from returning from the DL.

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