Commentary

Five Questions: Yankees vs. Red Sox

Bombers, BoSox battle for first place this week in the Bronx. What does it mean?

Updated: June 7, 2011, 3:22 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand | ESPNNewYork.com

With the Red Sox coming to town, the Rivalry is set up how it should be -- a Bronx battle for first place. We are about to learn some more about these 2011 Yankees.

While a series in June won't settle October, it very well could give us hints about the fall. The Yankees just passed a test out west with their 6-3 road trip.

Starting Tuesday night, it is the Red Sox, the Indians and Rangers at Yankee Stadium, and there are some questions that will be further answered.

So let's roll out a Red Sox edition of Five Questions.

1. Can Derek Jeter collect 14 hits in 10 games?

Ideally, it would be nice for Jeter to get hit No. 3,000 at home. He has 60 hits in 55 games, making it possible but unlikely.

If he doesn't do it during this 10-game homestand, then either at Wrigley against the Cubs on Father's Day weekend (June 17-19) or the next series after that against the Reds in Cincinnati would seem very likely.

The bigger issue in relation to the Yankees, the Red Sox and Jeter, is if he gets to 3K, how quickly do the Yankees move him out of the leadoff spot? Jeter's on-base percentage is .327, which, with no power, is not good enough to hit at the top of the order and receive extra at-bats on a $200 million team.

Brett Gardner, who has been up and down, has just a .333 OBP, though.

2. Can A.J. Burnett recapture his old magic against Boston?

In 2009, A.J. Burnett started four times against the Red Sox. He was 0-2 with an 8.85 ERA. In 2010, Burnett was 0-1 with a 7.63 ERA in three starts. On Wednesday, he makes his first start in 2011 against Boston.

In the winter of 2008, the Yankees signed Burnett in part because he was a Boston massacre on the mound. That hasn't been the case for him in pinstripes.

Burnett entered this season under big-time pressure and low expectations. He has pitched well and his head seems to be in a better place, but this song has been played before.

Burnett can turn the lingering doubts, if he can have another money performance against the Sawx. It won't guarantee anything, but maybe, just maybe, he can become someone the Yankees firmly believe in.

3. What is going on with Robinson Cano?

Cano has received some scrutiny, but with an OBP of .316, he may deserve even more. He is the guy who is supposed to allow the Jeters and A-Rods to regress and the Yankees not to miss a beat.

At the plate, Cano has lost his selective eye and his game is struggling because of it. The sight of the Red Sox could inspire the vintage 2010 Cano to return.

In his career, Cano is extra good against Boston. He has a .366 on-base percentage against the Red Sox, compared to .345 overall. Even this year, in six games, Cano has a .417 OBP versus Boston.

4. Can the Yankees Boone-doggle the BoSox?

How much longer will Joe Girardi turn the ball over to Boone Logan to get lefties like Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz out?

We could find out this series. There is no reason to have Logan on the roster unless he's going to get left-handed hitters out. So you have to figure Girardi will still turn to Logan against the BoSox.

Left-handed hitters are batting .324 in 34 at-bats against Logan. If Logan doesn't improve, a lefty reliever will be on Brian Cashman's shopping list.

5. Is there any way both of these teams don't make the playoffs?

It is possible, but not probable. Even with how the Red Sox started, they are a game back in the AL East and lead the wild card. The Yankees and Red Sox both have 33 wins. The Yankees have 24 losses, the Red Sox have 26. As of Monday, the Indians had the same amount of wins as the Yankees and Sawx, while the Rangers had a league-best 34. Both lead their divisions.

The Tigers were 31-27, while the Mariners were 31-28. Everyone else hovered around .500 or worse.

Can you imagine Detroit or Seattle beating out the Yankees or Red Sox for a spot in the playoffs? We can't either. That is why we will learn some things that could become important by October, but these are probably just previews of further battles to come.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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