Opportunity arrives with Yankees
The Red Sox beat the Yankees, 9-7, in the first game of the season. The teams veered off in different directions from there, the Sox struggling to find even a modicum of consistency, the Yankees building one of the best records in baseball.
The old rivals meet again tonight to start a three-game series. For the Sox, it represents an opportunity to make up some of the ground already lost.
“It seems like we’ve taken a collective deep breath and are playing the kind of baseball we’re capable of playing,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said before last night’s 11-6 win over the Angels. “Now the key is to keep it going.’’
The Yankees, who had yesterday off, are 19-8 and have won seven of their last eight games. But they remain in the second place in the AL East behind the torrid Tampa Bay Rays, now 21-7.
The Sox are aware of how well the Rays and Yankees have played. But they aren’t paying close attention to the standings yet.
“They’re going to struggle at some point, too,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “They’re not going to go the whole season the way they are now. We don’t worry about the standings right now because the fraction of how many games you’ve played in a season right now is very low. We just focus on each game and each pitch.’’
The Yankees arrive with some injury concerns. Mariano Rivera has not pitched since last Friday because of stiffness on his left side. He was cleared to pitch Wednesday but was held out of a save situation against the Orioles as a precaution.
Catcher Jorge Posada is questionable because of a strained calf muscle in his right leg. He last played Monday. The Yankees have been using Francisco Cervelli in his absence.
Andy Pettitte, who was not scheduled to pitch against the Sox in this series, will miss his next start because of elbow pain and could end up on the disabled list.
The Yankees also are playing without center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is on the disabled list with a strained left groin.
The Yankees will skip struggling Javier Vazquez and start Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett against the Sox.
Epstein pointed out that the Sox had similar poor stretches in every recent season except 2005. This slump was magnified because it came at the start.
“Getting out of the gates slow means that there’s no context,’’ he said. “Things look a lot worse than they are.
“There was a feeling around the team that wasn’t quite right, basically because of the way we were playing. No one felt really comfortable because we weren’t ourselves.’’
That changed after the meeting.
“A couple of guys have found that comfort zone,’’ said Epstein. “We’re not doing anything we’re not capable of. We’re just playing good, clean baseball.’’