Starters to pen, Red Sox are in for pitched battle against Yankees -- Mike Lupica is pondering a Yankees sweep this morning:
You don't announce you are back in play by beating fading teams such as the A's and Twins. The best place for this flinty Yankee team to make that kind of announcement is Fenway, starting Friday night.
A sweep this weekend doesn't win the Yankees the AL East or settle anything with the Red Sox and Rays, because nothing gets settled in baseball the last weekend of July. It would just feel as much of a shot as the Yankees have thrown at Boston since they swept them in that five-game series two years ago.
Lupica's also got some interesting quotes from Larry Lucchino on the Sox trade deadline activity:
Yesterday I asked Larry Lucchino, who always sets the tone with the Red Sox, to assess where his team is right now.
"Half a game out of first place," said Lucchino, before the Rays lost to the Royals last night to squander that margin, "in the middle of a fascinating pennant race."
Then he said, "We are currently burning up the phone lines trying to see if there is a way we can improve our ballclub without making a foolish deal that squanders our future."
Yankees on roll and ready to rock Red Sox at Fenway Park -- Anthony McCarron writes that "a very different Yankee team than the one that played in Boston in mid-April." Some of the improved Yankee's numbers from McCarron:
Their second-half ERA of 1.89 is the lowest in baseball, and they have also allowed only 12 walks - the fewest in the majors - in 57 postbreak innings and haven't given up a home run over that span. Opposing hitters have managed only a .569 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) over the last six games, tied with Milwaukee for lowest in baseball. Their strikeouts per nine innings - 9.63 - is tops, too.
Yankee starters have held opponents to three earned runs or less in 13 of their last 14 games, going 7-2 with a 2.44 ERA.
Even the bullpen, once considered a liability beyond Mariano Rivera, is thriving. The relievers have a 3.39 ERA overall, sixth-best, and are holding opponents to a .227 average, second lowest in baseball.
Odd-ly enough -- Daily News blogger Mark Feinsand shares the post-All-Star break odds on the 2008 World Series according to bodog.com:
Odds to win the 2008 World Series
Boston Red Sox: 3/1
Chicago Cubs: 7/2
Tampa Bay Rays: 9/2
Los Angeles Angels 7/1
Chicago White Sox: 12/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 12/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 14/1
New York Mets: 15/1
New York Yankees: 15/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 17/1
Detroit Tigers: 18/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 25/1
Minnesota Twins: 25/1
St Louis Cardinals: 25/1
Yanks go off Barry Bonds market -- McCarron also writes that the Yankees aren't ready to make a move on Barry Bonds:
Barry Bonds was briefly discussed when Yankee officials gathered Thursday to brainstorm ways to improve the team, but the Yanks "aren't ready to jump on that," according to a baseball official familiar with the team's thinking.
However, adding a bat is something the Yankees are exploring as Thursday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trading deadline approaches, along with a starting pitcher and perhaps a lefthanded reliever.
Sox/Yanks get ready to rumble in the Fens - Newsday's Bronx & Beans blog has one of the Sox fans chiming in before the big series this weekend.
-- Yesterday, George Vescey nominated Jonathan Papelbon as "the man who has done the most to restore acrimony to the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox.":
Just when it looked as if the Yankees and Red Sox were drifting into the cozy familiarity of ďBrady BunchĒ reruns (four episodes you havenít seen in at least a week), along came Papelbon, poking a sharp stick into the cage of somnolent Yankee fans.
Papelbon performed this service during the All-Star festivities last week, when he mused that he would pick himself to close the game. A posse of New York tabloids (and Papelbonís manager, the perceptive Terry Francona) reminded Papelbon that the Yankees have a reliever named Mariano Rivera.
Vescey also writes that some Yankee fans think Papelbon may have been doing the taunting during the All-Star parade on Sixth Avenue in New York.
Let it be noted that some touchy Yankee fans on the parade route felt Papelbon was ostentatiously flashing his World Series ring, telling Yankee fans: Look what Iíve got ó and your team doesnít. Or maybe Yankee fans wanted to think he was flashing the ring.