A Red Sox-Yankees series is always a big event. Whether the meeting takes place in April or October, the atmosphere is always as if the pennant is at stake. A sweep of such a series is a big deal for the winner and tough to swallow for the loser. This last sweep by the Red Sox might actually be better news for the Yankees than one would normally think and could actually foretell something grim for the Sox.
Both the Red Sox and the Yankees boast a formidable offense. The Red Sox’ offense is anchored by such fearsome hitters as David “Big Pappi” Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. The Yankees lineup includes perennial all stars like Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez. While the names change from year to year and decade to decade, the Red Sox and Yankees have the reputation of having big hitters. What they don’t have is a reputation for always having good pitching.
The Yankees went into this last series having lost three of their best starting pitchers to the disabled list, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina. On top of that the series was played in Boston, and typically the home field advantage is a big one in Yankees Red Sox series. As a die-hard Yankee fan, I not only thought a sweep was very likely, I was concerned that several of the games would be embarrassing blow-outs.
Consider the experience of Yankee pitchers in games 2 and 3. Jeff Karstens started game 2. While I think Jeff will grow into a great pitcher, he had exactly 8 games of major league experience behind him when he started game 2 at Fenway. Chase Wright, who pitched game 3 for the Yankees was pitching in his second ever major league game. Before those two games, he was pitching in the AA league, not even AAA.
Against these pitchers and veteran Andy Pettite, the Red Sox could only manage victories by margins of one run, two runs and one run respectively. Now, if you are Red Sox manager Terry Francona, you have got to wonder how the Red Sox will compete against a healthy Yankees pitching staff at Yankee stadium. The Red Sox offense has to be able to beat up on pitchers and teams in conditions like this if they are going to be competitive, not barely eek out 1 and 2 run wins. If I were Yankees Manager Joe Torre, I would be pleased at the performance of these two pitchers and marvel at how close they kept the games. Said Torre of Wright’s performance, "It's just another piece of experience for that kid. It has nothing to do with what he's going to be or what's going to happen in the future. I still think he's going to be special.”
Torre is right, Chase Wright, and Jeff Karstens are going to be great pitchers. If they are doing this well against one of the league’s premier offenses with little or no experience in the Majors, they are going to be incredible pitchers sometime soon.If you are the Yankees and are going to get swept by the Red Sox, this is exactly the circumstances you would want, early April, Fenway park, second string players in key positions like on the mound, and close games. Its like a brief return to Spring Training when you try out some players you ordinarily wouldn’t put in the game in a given circumstance and see what happens. This is a situation the Yankees can use to learn from and improve on.