Boston ready for Bronx showdown

Red Sox ready to rumble in the Bronx

Was it really just 28 days ago that the Red Sox opened a series with the Yankees trailing by just 1 1/2 games in the American League East? It's nearly impossible to fathom when you consider that the long-time rivals begin this weekend's four-game showdown in the Bronx with a separation of 11 1/2 games in the standings.

The Red Sox have gone from trying to wrest the division title away from the Yankees to just hoping they don't have to watch them celebrate. The Yankees have the magic number for clinching the AL East down to six, which means they could break out the bubbly by taking three out of four from the injury-wracked Red Sox this weekend.

"Well, I think we certainly haven't given up, but the odds are against us -- we know that," Red Sox second baseman Mark Loretta said. "But we've got to just really bear down from inning to inning. I think there's also a goal not to let the Yankees clinch when we're there. That's a motivational factor. You can get motivated in a lot of different ways. That can be used as one."

Another one can be to think back to that pivotal series at Fenway in August, when the Yankees turned the tables on the Sox by sweeping them in five games, a series dubbed the "Son of the Boston Massacre" by certain baseball pundits.

"I hope we come out of there feeling good," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "They beat us around last time. It's not a lot of fun to live through. I don't want to do that again. Whatever our record is, we don't want to go in there and get beat around. That's not a lot of fun. The best way to do it is, go in there the first game and try to win. Then if you can do that, try to win the next game. Or if you lose, try to win the next one. If you start thinking about Sunday or four in a row, it will just get overwhelming."

The Red Sox will be without their cleanup man (Manny Ramirez), their ace (Curt Schilling) and their closer (Jonathan Papelbon), all of whom have recently been sidelined by injuries.

Yankees manager Joe Torre, as much as he loves seeing his team well above Boston in the standings, feels for what Francona has gone through in recent weeks.

"We thought we had injury things; every aspect of the game was affected for [Francona]," Torre said. "His closer, starters, outfield, infield, his DH, his catcher; the catcher was a huge loss for him. You know how important catching is to pitchers. We started playing well, but their injuries were the main reason they couldn't keep anything going. Early on, they looked unbeatable; they won every game."

If the Yankees should win the necessary three games this weekend to take home the division, Francona assured that his players would handle it with dignity.

"You know what? Whatever happens, you deal with it," Francona said. "However difficult it is, you try to deal with it and learn. I mean, remember when we got our [World Series] rings, Joe had them in their dugout watching. Flip the coin a little bit and we have to be on the other side, I hope that we would have as much class as they showed."

Another subplot for the weekend is the race for MVP, where Red Sox slugger David Ortiz and Yankees captain Derek Jeter are two of the leading candidates.

"Jeter's about as professional as anybody you'll ever see. I wish he wasn't on the Yankees," said Francona. "He's like one of my favorite players. You can't help but like Jeter. He's not necessarily good for the Red Sox, but he's good for the game. He's just a very respectful young man, the way he approaches the game. He's good for baseball."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (14-10, 5.09 ERA)
Beckett has just one win in his last nine starts, but has kept the Red Sox in games for the majority of his last few outings. The right-hander went eight innings and allowed four runs against the Royals in his last start, a no-decision. Beckett has struggled against the Yankees this season, going 1-2 with a 12.21 ERA in three outings.

NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (17-5, 3.60 ERA)
Wang looks to cement his status as a Cy Young Award contender, taking the mound in search of his 18th victory. The right-hander tossed 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in his last start, defeating Baltimore to win his fourth straight decision. Wang has won nine of his last 10 decisions, posting a 2.43 ERA in his last five starts.

Player to watch
Ortiz, who is two homers away from 50, is 6-for-15 lifetime against Wang.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Julian Tavarez, 3-4, 4.74) at Yankees (RHP Jaret Wright, 10-7, 4.60), 1:20 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Kyle Snyder, 4-4, 6.54) at Yankees (LHP Randy Johnson, 17-10, 4.84), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (LHP Kason Gabbard, 1-3, 3.13) at Yankees (RHP Mike Mussina, 14-6, 3.59), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.