Yanks, Sox in Beantown

The Boston Red Sox earned a clear edge over the New York Yankees last year by winning the AL East for the first time since 1995 and capturing their second World Series title in the last four years.

Beating their archrivals, however, has proved a tougher task.

The Yankees will look to continue their recent run of success in the rivalry when Josh Beckett and Mike Mussina face off as the clubs resume their series at Fenway Park on Saturday.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -169 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -169 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.

The Red Sox (5-6) took five of the first six games against the Yankees (6-5) in 2007, building a lead in the AL East that eventually proved insurmountable. But Boston has dropped four consecutive series to New York, losing 10 of 13 overall and seven of the last eight games.

The trend continued Friday, when Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang threw a two-hitter in a 4-1 victory. Wang had come into the game with a 6.17 career ERA at Fenway, but set a good example for Mussina, who will also look to reverse his recent struggles against Boston.

Mussina (1-1, 3.09 ERA) has a 3.66 career ERA against the Red Sox, and came within one out of a perfect game at Fenway Park in 2001, but Boston has clobbered him the last three years. In his last nine starts in the series, Mussina is just 2-3 with a 7.08 ERA, having allowed 70 hits and 13 home runs in just 48 1-3 innings.

But after struggling last year, the 39-year-old right-hander has been solid thus far, allowing just four earned runs in 11 2-3 innings. He limited Tampa Bay to one run and two hits in six innings of a 6-1 victory on Monday.

"In and out, keeping the ball down, mixing up pitches, kept us off balance all night," Rays outfielder B.J. Upton said of Mussina's effort.

Beckett (0-1, 9.64) might face more uncertainty entering Saturday's start. Boston's ace struggled in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list last Sunday, giving up five runs and walking four in just 4 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss in Toronto.

"Obviously, it's not the result you want, but health-wise, I felt good," Beckett said.

The right-hander, who started the season on the DL with back and hip problems, will also have to overcome a poor history against the Yankees. Beckett made a name for himself by pitching a shutout on three days' rest at Yankee Stadium to clinch the 2003 World Series for the Florida Marlins, but he is just 4-3 with a 6.56 ERA against the Yankees since that victory.

Beckett, however, is the only Boston pitcher to win in the team's last eight games against the Yankees. He allowed one run in seven innings of a 10-1 win Sept. 15.

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is expected to miss the entire series with a quadriceps strain, but it only seems like Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is missing from the lineup. After going 0-for-3 on Friday, Ortiz is now hitless in his last 13 at-bats and 3-for-39 (.077) in 2008.

J.D. Drew's solo home run and Coco Crisp's bunt single were the only hits for the Red Sox. Clay Buchholz kept the game tied at 1 through six innings, but reliever Mike Timlin allowed a home run to Jason Giambi in the seventh in his first appearance of the season.

"They hit a lot of balls hard, but they didn't get a lot of hits," Giambi said of the Red Sox. "When they hit the ball hard, it was right at somebody. I know that feeling. I've been swinging the bat good, but I just didn't get a lot of hits."

Giambi had just one hit in 20 at-bats prior to the tiebreaking home run, but is 5-for-15 with two homers lifetime versus Beckett.

Here are some top trends for today's matchup:

-BECKETT is 5-4 when starting against NY YANKEES with an ERA of 5.14 and a WHIP of 1.492.

-MUSSINA is 14-14 when starting against BOSTON with an ERA of 3.63 and a WHIP of 1.147.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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