Monday, April 11, 2011

Red Sox wake up, take series from Yankees

(photo courtesy of

After scoring 16 runs in their first six games this season, the Boston Red Sox lineup finally came alive against Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and C.C. Sabathia, scoring 17 runs in the three-game set at Fenway and taking two of three games against New York.

Hitting Hughes, whose fastball has been ordinary in two starts so far this season, and Nova, who is in his first full major-league season, is no real accomplishment. That's especially true considering the Yankees bullpen came in and shut down Boston's lineup in game two once Nova was pulled.

Making Sabathia work, however, is a great sign for the Red Sox. Sabathia labored through 5.2 innings, throwing 118 pitches, allowing nine hits and walking four batters. Boston worked the count against the Yankees ace and got him out of the game before the seventh inning, allowing them to load the bases and score twice against Joba Chamberlain in the seventh.

The Yankees were able to beat up on John Lackey and Clay Buchholz in the first two games, but couldn't solve Josh Beckett in the rubber match. Beckett allowed just three baserunners in eight innings and struck out 10, a far cry from his struggles against New York in recent seasons, especially at Fenway.

Am I worried about the Yankees' bats? In a word, no. They scored at least four runs in their first eight games and were missing Alex Rodriguez in the middle of their lineup. I'm far more worried about the rotation behind Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, who has pitched surprisingly well in his two starts this season and has kept the walks to a minimum (11 innings, three BB).

It's still early in the season and it may just be a case of Hughes needed to get his arm completely loosened up, but the Yankees need him to be productive. They should be able to score enough runs during the regular season to withstand average starts from Hughes, Nova and Freddy Garcia but come playoff time, New York cannot have just two starters pitching well, especially since Burnett is no lock for consistency.

Like the Yankees, Boston has rotation issues behind ace Jon Lester. Lackey and Buchholz both struggled this weekend and while Beckett threw well, he's as much of a guarantee as Burnett in New York. Daisuke Matsuzaka has proven he's no more than a fourth or fifth starter.

The AL East will be a hitting-heavy division this season if the first week-and-a-half of the season is any indication. That still favors New York and Boston in the long run, but Toronto's lineup is dangerous and if Baltimore's young pitchers continue to throw well, they may be able boast the division's best rotation. Could the AL East be more interesting this season than people expected?

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