Mar 11, 2013; Jupiter, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester (31) throws in the fourth inning during a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sox, Yanks Series Preview: Let’s Get It On!


The ancient rivalry begins anew today at 1:05 at Yankee Stadium. For the 30th time in their storied history, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will square off on Opening Day. New York holds the edge in the Opening Day series at 18-11-1. That 1 in the record is correct. In 1910 the Red Sox and Yankees played to a 4-4 Opening Day tie that was called due to darkness.

The only darkness for each team tomorrow is largely psychological. The Red Sox need to get a quick start out the blocks and erase the stain of a 2012 season that went wrong from the get go and only got worse.

Although winning the 2012 AL East title the Yankees will be looking to forget their poor showing in the playoffs. Additionally a dark cloud hangs over the Bombers as Derek Jeter will miss only his second Opening Day start in 18 years and will be joined by Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez, all on the DL with long-term injuries.

Since being interviewed on Friday by Yanks Go Yard’s writer Ricky Keeley, I’ve had a chance to think over my pitching matchups and will adjusting my picks. Let’s get down to business.

Pitching Match Ups:

Game 1: Jon Lester vs. CC Sabathia. April 1, 1:05 pm. TV: YES, NESN, ESPN Radio: WCBS 880, WADO 1280, WEEI 93.7 FM

Lester: 2012 record: 9-14, 4.82 ERA – 2013 Spring Training record: 3-0, 0.75 (#1 in MLB). 24 innings pitched.
Sabathia: 2012 record: 15-6, 3.38 ERA - 2013 Spring Training record: 0-0. 5.40 ERA. 10 innings pitched.

Lester has a lot to prove this year and Monday he’ll start doing just that. Lester traditionally pitches well against  New York in New York and his superlative spring training positions him for a strong Opening Day performance. Manager John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves have created a climate in which Lester is thriving.

He’s pitched over twice as many innings as Sabathia and has a pint-sized ERA and, best of all, his control has been pinpoint. The offense won’t need to  score many runs if Lester stays on his game and the defense and relief pitching hold. Lester comes away with a W on Opening Day.

September 20, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz (11) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2: Clay Buchholz vs. Hiroki Kuroda. April 3, 7:05 pm. TV: YES, NESN, ESPN2 Radio: WCBS 880, WADO 1280, WEEI 93.7 FM

Buchholz: 2012 record: 11-8, 4.56 ERA – 2013 Spring Training record: 3-0, 0.75 (#2 in MLB). 22.2 innings pitched.
Kuroda: 2012 record: 2-1, 2.92 ERA - 2013 Spring Training record: 1-2. 1.53 ERA. 17.2 innings pitched.

As good as Lester has been this spring, Buchholz has been right there at the #2 spot in spring training – and not just for the Red Sox but in the majors. With the exception of a week one hamstring strain, Buchholz has been healthy and followed much the same pattern as did Lester this spring; low ERA, high K and low BB.

In limited action against the Red Sox Kuroda has pitched well against Boston batters, a combined .261 average but his numbers are nearly statistically insignificant since he’s pitched to Red Sox hitters only 119 times. He’s older than Buchholz, 38, which can cut both ways.

Tuesday’s tilt will come down to mental toughness and stamina. I’m giving the edge to Buchholz.

March 29, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Andy Pettitte (46) pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Game 3: Ryan Dempster vs.Andy Pettitte. April 4, 7:05 pm. TV: TV: YES, NESN, MLBN Radio: WCBS 880, ESPN Radio, WADO 1280, WEEI 93.7 FM
Dempster: 2012 record: 5-5, 2.58 ERA – 2013 Spring Training record: 1-2, 3.74. 21.2 innings pitched.
Pettitte: 2012 record: 5-4, 2.78 ERA - 2013 Spring Training record: 2-0. 3.52 ERA. 13.1 innings pitched.

To say that this is a battle of grizzled veterans is an understatement. Dempster, who will be 36 on May 3, and Pettitte, who will be 40 on June 15, are crafty innings eaters. What both lack in former electricity they have in pitching smarts. Dempster and Pettitte will go head to head, both will get dinged around but in the end Pettitte and Yankees will edge to Sox in the series finale.

Key Match Ups
Battle of the Injuries: How the Yankees stockpile of injuries stacks up against Boston’s glaring injury to David Ortiz, putting Jonny Gomes in the Opening Day starting line up DH role, will be a key in the series. Boston’s loss of Stephen Drew is negligible at this point in the season. Light-hitting, starting SS Jose Iglesias is a wizard in the field and has actually been much better at the plate this spring (.297 BA) than years past.

Youk vs. Middlebrooks
How Youk fares against his former team and how the guy who replaced him, Will Middlebrooks, gets out of the blocks tomorrow will give their team’s an edge.

The Fast Start
It’s hard to call an opening series and important one but for a number of reasons it simply is. Boston has been slow out the blocks for two straight seasons. Their start has foreshadowed a mammoth September collapse and an embarrassing, unprofessional 2012 campaign. Boston needs to win this series as much for pride and positive mental outlook than simply beating the Yankees.

Wildcard:
Jackie Bradley Junior will either continue feasting on opposing pitching (.419 spring training BA) and remain un-phased as he hits the big show or will be awestruck by Sabathia and Yankee Stadium, which will cause him to suffer a severe case of the rookie yips. There’s no in between.

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