Series: Game 1 of 3

Series starts Fri 9/23

Game 1: Friday, September 23
NY Yankees
Game 1: Saturday, September 24
NY Yankees9
Game 2: Sunday, September 25
NY Yankees6
Game 3: Sunday, September 25
in 14
NY Yankees4

7:05 PM ET, September 23, 2011

Yankee Stadium, New York, New York 

Starting Pitchers

Boston: Lester (15-9, 3.47 ERA)

New York: Garcia (12-8, 3.62 ERA)

Red Sox-Yankees Preview


For a foundering Boston Red Sox team desperate to stop an epic collapse and hang on to the AL wild card, facing an opponent with little at stake this weekend might have been good news.

The problem is, that opponent is the arch-rival New York Yankees, who would like nothing better than to push the Red Sox further along an early path to the golf course.

With their once-gaping wild-card lead down to a tenuous two games, the Red Sox try once again to end their September struggles Friday night when they open a three-game set in the Bronx against the AL East champion Yankees.

When the month began, this series figured to be for the division crown. Boston and New York had jousted atop the division all summer, and the Red Sox held a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees. The runner-up appeared nearly certain to win the wild card as Tampa Bay -- the closest pursuer -- languished nine games behind Boston.

Little has gone right since for the Red Sox (88-68), who fell to 5-16 in September after dropping three of four at home this week to last-place Baltimore. Boston's swoon allowed the Yankees (95-61) the luxury of clinching the division Wednesday and has brought the Rays within two games of the Red Sox.

"If you were to ask me in August about that -- if you would have told me this would happen in September, I would have laughed," slugger David Ortiz told the team's official website. "Because the way we were playing, the way things were going, even with some injuries, we would have come out (of it)."

The Red Sox have dealt with their share of injuries down the stretch -- third baseman Kevin Youkilis hasn't played in eight days due to a sports hernia -- but health woes don't come close to explaining their collapse.

"We certainly haven't made it very easy for ourselves," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That doesn't mean we can't get where we want to go, but we have our work cut out for us."

One night after clinching their 11th division title in 14 years, the Yankees didn't appear eager to do the Red Sox any favors, dropping the finale of a four-game series against the Rays 15-8 to end a four-game winning streak. However, they may be salivating at the prospect of sending Boston to an early offseason.

"Anything to get the Red Sox out would be awesome for me," New York catcher Russell Martin said. "They are fun to play against just because they have a quality team, and they're gritty, and they play hard and stuff, but I'd love to see them lose.

"I hate the Red Sox," he added.

Of all Boston's problems, the biggest may be a starting rotation that has compiled a 6.82 ERA this month and has produced only two quality starts in its last 18 games. One of those belonged to Jon Lester (15-8, 3.15 ERA), who will take the ball Friday.

However, even Lester may not be the man to end the slump. He's 7-5 when taking the mound after a Red Sox loss, compared with 8-3 following a win. The left-hander is also coming off consecutive defeats to Tampa Bay in which he allowed eight runs over 11 innings.

Lester is 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA in four starts versus the Yankees this season. Both wins came in the Bronx against Freddy Garcia (11-8, 3.77), who will oppose Lester again Friday.

Garcia fared particularly poorly in a June 7 loss to Lester and Boston, lasting a season-low 1 2/3 innings while yielding four runs, four hits and three walks. The right-hander was more effective Aug. 7 at Fenway Park, limiting the Red Sox to one run over five innings and not getting a decision.

Garcia, who will turn 35 on Oct. 6, could be showing signs of fatigue down the stretch. He's 0-1 with a 10.95 ERA and a .385 opponent batting average in three September outings, failing to last longer than five innings in any of them.

The Red Sox are 6-0 at Yankee Stadium in 2011, but the teams have split their last six meetings overall.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Gameday Matchup

 BostonNew York
Current StreakL1L4
Last 103-75-5

Pitching Matchup

BostonNew York
J. Lester
15-9, 3.47 ERA

Last Game:
9/28 at BAL
6.0 IP, 2 ER
Dec = ND
F. Garcia
12-8, 3.62 ERA

Last Game:
9/24 at NYY
6.0 IP, 0 ER
Dec = Win

Gameday Lineups

NO.BostonNew York
1. J. Ellsbury, CF D. Jeter, SS
2. D. Pedroia, 2B C. Granderson, CF
3. A. Gonzalez, 1B M. Teixeira, 1B
4. D. Ortiz, DH A. Rodriguez, 3B
5. M. Aviles, 3B R. Cano, 2B
6. C. Crawford, LF N. Swisher, RF
7. M. Scutaro, SS A. Jones, LF
8. J. Saltalamacchia, C J. Montero, DH
9. J. Reddick, RF R. Martin, C

Research Notes

Mike Aviles is 7 for 11 (.636) with a home run in his career against Freddy Garcia.

ESPN Stats & Information