BY KEVIN FLANAGAN
Mercifully the baseball season begins again tonight at Fenway Park when the Red Sox play host to the somehow still clinging to life Yankees for a three game set that will subject baseball fans everywhere to back to back national telecasts sure to over hype the somewhat stale and dormant rivalry.
This is not your father’s, or for that matter your older brother’s Red Sox/Yankees match up but I guess it will have to do for now.
The Yankees have found a way to continue to compete with a lineup that has played all but 6 innings of 2013 without Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira out for the year with season ending surgery and Curtis Granderson playing only 8 games before breaking his finger on a hit by pitch in May.
To add insult to injury (literally) Robinson Cano was hit in the leg with the 3rd pitch of the night leading off in the waste of time that is the All Star game.
It has not exactly been Instant Karma in the Big Apple this year.
The Sox will miss the clown show that is Alex Rodriguez who has announced to anyone that will listen that he will be returning to the Yankees on Monday. I’m sure Brian Cashman is thrilled. If there was a way for Cashman to place ARod on the designated for exile never to return list I think he would have done it already.
Thank your lucky stars Sox fans because if it weren’t for the players association putting the kibosh on the restructuring of ARod’s contract in December of 2003 this hot mess would be shaming the hanging sox and not the pinstripes.
Coming out of the break the Red Sox will be tested quickly. Following the three game set with the Yanks the surging Rays come to town for four and then the Sox head to Baltimore for three against an Orioles club who for the past three years more times than not have found a way beat the team that once called Camden Yards Fenway South.
John Farrell has pushed back struggling ace (just ask him) Jon Lester’s start to Sunday and chose to start the weekend series with Felix Doubront in the opener followed by John Lackey on Saturday. In his last 3 starts Doubront is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 17 strikeouts. Lackey has been equally impressive in his last 3 games going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA and 20 punchouts.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that if the Sox are truly going to compete into September and beyond Lester is going to have to graduate from kindergarten on the mound and Clay Buchholz is going to have to find a way to get back to health and build on his brilliant start to the season that saw him pitch like the best pitcher in the league.
He also has to learn that this is the big leagues and everybody has an owie this time of year. It is time for Buchholz to put on his big boy pants, take the ball and do what he is paid to do; pitch.
Friday night marks the official start of the dog days of summer for the Sox. How they perform in these first three series could go a long way in determining their fate down the stretch.
The second half of the baseball season is closing time. Only time will tell if this Red Sox team that is currently searching for bonafide stopper to get the last 3 outs at the end of games will have enough when it matters to ultimately seal the deal down the stretch.