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Dice-K Gets Taste of Rivalry

After a disastrous home record against the New York Yankees last season, the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of their first sweep over their archrivals at Fenway Park in more than 16 years.

The Red Sox look to accomplish the feat behind highly touted Daisuke Matsuzaka, who gets his first taste of the rivalry with the Yankees in Sunday's series finale.

Oddsmakers have made Boston -185 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 10ov total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on New York +175 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

While Matsuzaka (1-2, 2.70 ERA) has grabbed headlines around the globe with his six-year, $52 million contract and his dominance in Japan with his famous "gyroball,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre is not allowing his team to get caught up in the hype surrounding the Japanese right-hander.

"It's the Yankees vs. the Red Sox,'' Torre said. "We don't sit up at night to see who they're pitching.''

Boston (11-5) defeated New York 7-5 on Saturday after rallying from a 6-2 deficit with five runs in the eighth inning to win Friday's series opener.

Last season, the Red Sox also won their first two home games of the season over the Yankees, before dropping the final seven at Fenway. That included a critical five-game sweep from Aug. 18-21 that essentially wrapped up New York's ninth straight AL East title.

Boston has not swept the Yankees (8-8) at home since winning a three-game series Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 1990.

Saturday's victory was the fourth straight and seventh in eight games overall for the Red Sox. The only loss in that span, though, came with Matsuzaka on the mound.

Since winning his major league debut, Matsuzaka has allowed five runs in 13 innings over his last two starts, but has taken the loss in each of those games because the Red Sox have scored just one run.

Matsuzaka - the MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006 - gave up two runs and three hits in six innings his last time out, but forced home the go-ahead run with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Toronto. He also struck out 10 for the second time in three starts, becoming the first pitcher to accomplish the feat since Fernando Valenzuela did so for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981.

"Even if I pitch well and the team does not win, I'm definitely not happy with that result,'' Matsuzaka said through a translator. "The weight of that loss as a team weighs upon me more heavily than my loss as a pitcher.''

Boston's David Ortiz is just 1-for-12 in the three games Matsuzaka has started, but had a two-run homer and four RBIs on Saturday. Ortiz has four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last seven games overall, and seven homers and 20 RBIs in 20 games against the Yankees since the start of last season.

"Him and Manny (Ramirez). Both of them have done so much damage to us over the years,'' said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.

New York's Alex Rodriguez failed to hit a home run on Saturday - snapping a four-game homer streak - but did extending his hitting streak to 21 games dating to last season. Rodriguez, who hit two home runs on Friday, went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single, and is batting .372 (16-for-43) with four homers and 15 RBIs in his last 10 games at Fenway Park.

The Yankees oppose Matsuzaka with Chase Wright (1-0, 5.40), who makes his second major league start.

Wright was called up from Double-A Trenton to fill a spot in New York's injury-depleted rotation, and in his major league debut, the left-hander allowed three runs and five hits in five innings of a 10-3 win over Cleveland on Tuesday.

"He went after people. There was a lot of quality there,'' Torre said. "He has a presence about him that makes you feel pretty comfortable.''

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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