The Boston Red Sox have started the 2011 season 5-1 against their archrival New York Yankees, which is certainly a good thing. They now stand at 20-20, just three games out of first place. Without those six games against the Yankees, the Sox would be just 15-19.
The Red Sox' .823 OPS and seven home runs against New York is surpassed only by their success against Toronto. Their .385 on base percentage is the best against any of their opponents thus far in 2011. The offense against New York has been paced by Dustin Pedroia (13-for-24, 1.412 OPS) and, yes, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is 6 for 16 with an OPS of 1.000.
The Sox' pitchers have struck out more Yankee hitters than any other team but the Angels, and have done so at a greater rate (9.3 per 9 IP) than any team but Cleveland. They've been touched by the long ball (eight home runs allowed, second only to Texas), but have limited the damage by allowing a Yankee on base just 30 percent of the time, lower than any team but the Twins.
The bullpen in particular has been tremendous, with Jonathan Papelbon (three saves and six strikeouts in four appearances) and Daniel Bard working their way through a tough lineup while Matt Albers, Tim Wakefield, Rich Hill and even Bobby Jenks have yet to allow a run. Josh Beckett, of course, has been phenomenal, with 19 strikeouts against just 10 baserunners in 14 scoreless innings. The other three starters to face New York have struggled yet still collected three wins among them, with only Clay Buchholz taking a loss.
But these things tend to even themselves out. After all, in 2009 the Red Sox started the season 8-0 against the Yankees, then managed just one win the rest of the season series. In 2010, the Sox started off 3-6 against New York before coming back to win six of the final nine despite finishing out of the playoff picture.
In fact, the consistency with which the Sox and Yanks have dueled each other to a draw is pretty impressive:
- 2011: 5-1 BOS
- 2010: 9-9
- 2009: 9-9
- 2008: 9-9
- 2007: 10-8 NYY
- 2006: 11-8 NYY
- 2005: 10-9 NYY
- 2004: 11-8 BOS
- 2003: 10-9 NYY
- 2002: 10-9 NYY
That adds up to an 87-86 Yankee advantage since John Henry and Co. took over the Boston Red Sox, and an even 77-77 draw since Theo Epstein took over as general manager.
Don't get me wrong: I'm savoring the sweep, but two-thirds of this season series has yet to be played. With the Sox' season essentially reset, here's to hoping they start playing all the other teams the way they've been playing the Yankees.