Red Sox Nation visits Yankees Universe
Rivalry continues with two in the Bronx this week
And now, Yankee Stadium takes over for two nights as center of Yankees Universe. Or of Red Sox Nation. It isn't clear where that Hank Steinbrenner-John Henry debate currently stands.
Maybe Dr. Garrett Reisman will give us a celestial view of the territorial status from the best possible vantage point. Reisman is currently orbiting on the International Space Station, from which he will deliver the ceremonial first pitch prior to Wednesday night's opener of the two-game series.
Chances are that Reisman, a native of Parsippany, N.J., and a Yankees fan, won't be able to spot either Yankees Universe or Red Sox Nation from up there. But that won't make them any less real for millions of earthbound fans.
We do have a slightly better sense of the debate between Steinbrenner's and Henry's teams, which hit the field last weekend in Boston.
After three games, nine hours and 42 minutes, and 812 pitches, the Red Sox began this season where they had ended the last one -- one up on the Yankees.
In fact, there were vibes out of New England that (perish the thought) playing the Yankees may have somehow become anticlimactic for the Red Sox. Boston's "Beat New York!" fervor may have been toned down a bit since, well, Boston finally beat New York for the 2007 American League East title, its first in 12 years.
The Yankees may have lost their grip on recent Octobers, but their fans would like to point out that they have also taken three straight season series since the Red Sox prevailed 11-to-8 in 2004.
The air of expectancy that will hover over the Bronx will be even more pronounced in the Rodriguez household, with Alex and Cynthia expecting their second child any inning now.
Maybe they will decide to name him Mac or her Theodora; A-Rod's 521st homer on Monday night tied him at No. 15 all-time with Willie McCovey and Ted Williams.
Rodriguez had a trying weekend by The Fens (2-for-13, no ribbies), but now they'll play in his house.
As the festivities resumed in Fenway Park, we learned a number of things.
Foremost, we realized that it was way too early to jot impressions in ink. Like another veteran outfit, the Rolling Stones, these teams need time to find their groove. Well, with the exception of Manny Ramirez, who still hits the Yankees the way waves hit the beach.
Not that the rivalry renewal totally lacks novelty. Of particular note is the presence of second baseman Dustin Pedroia and shortstop Julio Lugo around the bag for the Red Sox -- Boston's first heldover DP combo since Marty Barrett and Jody Reed, away back in 1988-89.
It was also learned -- painfully in New York -- that Joe Girardi won't shy away from making the controversial move, or non-move. Also that more people can now be shoehorned into Fenway, with those three games averaging 37,654 (listed capacity was 33,577 when current ownership took over in 2002).
It follows that we also learned that this unique conflict is as heated as ever. No wonder, since the two franchises have won six of the last 12 World Series. At least that's the way the New York media conveniently set up last weekend's series -- never mind that the Yankees themselves haven't won any since 2000.
The most irrefutable impression was that these skirmishes aren't nearly as much fun with many of the lead characters missing. Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell still owes some DL-time with his sprained left thumb, and Yankees setup man Joba Chamberlain's return from his ill father's bedside in Lincoln, Neb., is uncertain, but otherwise the teams will field more representative casts in the Bronx.
Derek Jeter is back, as is David Ortiz, although Big Papi is still hitting like Big Papoose. Catcher Jorge Posada, another iconic Yankee limited last weekend by a sore shoulder, hopes to be back behind the plate.
Going forward, we also know this: Enjoy the next two nights to the max, because you won't see the AL East behemoths play again until the U.S. turns 232. Their next meeting will be in a four-game set in Yankee Stadium on July 3-6.
The much-debated youth spin of the Yankees' rotation has gone off-axle -- Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy are 1-3 in five starts while allowing 30 hits and 23 runs in 22 1/3 innings -- but that won't be part of the Bronx story.
The two veteran righties who dealt so impressively last weekend in Boston, Chien-Ming Wang and Mike Mussina, are lined up to reprise their matchups with rookie Clay Buchholz and Josh Beckett, respectively.
Wang comes off the best nine innings of his career -- quite a statement for someone who has gone 41-13 since the start of the 2006 season. But the Taiwanese right-hander was brilliant in his two-hit, no-walk complete game in Boston.
The noose Wang hung around Ortiz, who had historically maligned him (15-for-30, with two homers), screamed to Sox manager Terry Francona that something was terribly wrong with his DH.
Assuming that it had nothing to do with a reverse curse from that Ortiz jersey buried under, and then excavated from, the new Yankee Stadium, Francona decided to bench Ortiz for Sunday night's finale, giving him a "mental day."
It just proves that, though he may have been the first, Yogi Berra wasn't the last to point out that "half of this game is 90 percent mental."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.