Showdown in Beantown: Three Game Sox-Yankees Series Opens Tonight

Filed in Sports by on August 21, 2009 0 Comments

Fenway Park scoreboard

As the Yankees and Red Sox prepare for the final showdown in Beantown of the season, I can’t shake this feeling of déjà vu, this sense that something hazy, indistinct, and yet ominously monstrous is again looming around the corner. The situation is ripe for misery: having won what feels like eighty out of their last eighty one games, the Yankees hold a six and a half game lead in the AL East and the boastful status as the best team in baseball. They are like an All-Star team of super-humans (note: not superheroes) who, in addition to their profound physical skill, also seem to have found some way to corral the whims of luck and to utilize it effectively toward their own ends. Every pitch is a blistering corkscrew. Every hit is a towering blast. It just isn’t fair.

Then there is the Red Sox. They’ve been beset by all sorts of injuries, from the starting rotation to the outfield, which crippled their lineup and limited their bench options. Minor leaguers like Buchholz and Tazawa—who starts game two of the series—who have been called up as stopgaps until the regulars were reactivated. Miraculously, for all their setbacks, they Red Sox hold a slim lead in the Wild Card over the explosive Texas Rangers. They’ve toughed out what, I hope, is the worst of it, and with their regulars coming back they are in a perfect position to make a late season push—last night, J.D. Drew, just back from yet another stint on the DL, launched two home runs in the win.

But still, there is this feeling of impending doom, of total collapse and crushing failure. For me, the rivalry has always been like watching a young boy play one-on-one basketball against his dad. The father is bigger, stronger, so heavily favored to win that, assuming it was legal to gamble on, even Vegas wouldn’t take bets.

The son, exhibiting so much pluck and determination, and yes, even such sparkling hope, that this time he will do it, that this time he will finally be better than his old man, pulls a crossover he has been practicing all week, takes two hard dribbles left (he’s a righty, and this unpredictable directional choice should catch his father off guard) and he’s all alone under the hoop. He leaps and lays it up at the backboard, but, as he falls back to earth, he is suddenly obscured in shadow as his dad flies overhead and swats the ball clear over the house and into the neighbor’s yard.

I can’t help it, but that is how I approach these series; I expect that, not matter how good the Red Sox are playing, the Yankees will always pull something ridiculous to win the game. I dread seeing all those pinstripes congregating and high-fiving and celebrating their predictable triumph.

It doesn’t help that the starting match-ups for this series feature the Yankees’ three aces—Pettitte, Burnett, and Sabathia—facing off against Penny, the weakest pitcher on the staff, and the unproven Tazawa, whose defining moment of his short stint in the majors was the game-ending monumental bomb he gave up to A-Rod in that epic extra inning extravaganza. Sure Beckett is scheduled to start the final game, but the first two seem so heavily tilted in favor of the Yankees that come game three, Beckett will probably be pitching with the burden of trying to avoid an embarrassing home sweep.

After the last series, in which the Yankees spanked the Sox for four games in the Bronx, I keep thinking back to 2006 when a Yankees sweep pretty much ended the Sox season. From then on, it was a downhill trudge to a weak finish and no postseason. This season is different, and for all my pessimism, I have some confidence that the Red Sox can pull off something wonderful.

The best they can do is slice three games off the Yankees AL East lead, cutting it in half with just one series. Unlikely, yes, and ultimately there is little chance of that happening, or of the Sox catching the Yankees by seasons end. They’re playing for the Wild Card now, but also, I think, for pride. Dad is bound to lose sooner or later; 2004 and 2007 proved that. I just hope this year proves it again.

Photo credit: Alex

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