Yanks face Red Sox in doubleheader

Yankees face off vs. Red Sox in doubleheader

With six weeks remaining in the 2006 season, it's no surprise that the Yankees and Red Sox are battling down the stretch for the top spot in the American League East.

But even with nine games remaining between these two blood rivals, five of which will be played during the next four days at Fenway Park, the division may not come down to their head-to-head results.

After all, the Yankees and Red Sox have played to a virtual draw over the past five years, going 43-43 against each other in the regular season since the start of 2002.

"People keep assuming that the nine games we have with Boston will determine the AL East champion, but I'm not so sure that will be the case," Derek Jeter said. "We've played pretty even for a while now, so unless one team wins seven out of nine or something, it's probably going to boil down to how you play against the rest of the league."

"That's what usually happens; we play each other 19 times, but we play everybody else so many more times," Joe Torre said. "That's why I always try to put the emphasis on the number of games we win; it doesn't really matter who you beat. When it comes down to the end, it's going to be whose record is better than the other guy's record."

The Yankees and Red Sox have split the first 10 games this season, though New York has won four of the last five.

The series kicks off Friday with a day-night doubleheader, as the teams make up a May 2 rainout. Chien-Ming Wang takes the mound for New York, looking to rebound after two sub-par outings. Sidney Ponson, who has been pitching out of the bullpen for the past few weeks, will get the ball in the nightcap. Jason Johnson and Jon Lester counter for Boston.

Saturday, Randy Johnson (13-9, 4.92) and Josh Beckett (13-7, 5.02) oppose each other, taking their nearly identical records into the nationally televised game.

Sunday's game, which will also be televised nationally, features the best matchup of the series, as Mike Mussina takes on Curt Schilling. Monday's finale will have Cory Lidle taking on David Wells.

"It's all going to come down to how well you pitch," Torre said. "Both teams can hit, so it's a matter of how much control we can exert over their offense, and the same for them and us."

"It's going to feel like we're just at the field the whole time, especially with the doubleheader the first day," Jeter said. "It's going to be a Fenway overload."

After looking up at the Red Sox in the standings for most of the season, the Yankees enter the weekend in first place.

"You have to play one at a time," Torre said. "There's nothing you can do about it; you just play them. That's all you can do and hopefully, the result is good."

New York continues to play without Gary Sheffield or Hideki Matsui in the lineup, but Boston has its own injury problems as well. Jason Varitek, Trot Nixon and Tim Wakefield will not play in the series, but their absence isn't going to make this an easy series for the Yanks.

"Good teams find a way to get things done," Torre said. "That's the intangible; that's a very real thing."

Pitching matchup
Game 1:
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (13-5, 3.84 ERA)
Wang has had back-to-back rough outings, giving up nine earned runs in his past 10 1/3 innings. He allowed just one earned run in seven innings against Boston on June 6.

BOS: RHP Jason Johnson (3-11, 6.26 ERA)
After taking the loss in seven straight starts, Johnson earned his second straight no-decision against Baltimore on Saturday. He is still without a win in a Boston uniform and has not won a start since May 28.

Game 2:
BOS: RHP Jon Lester (6-2, 4.09 ERA)
Lester notched his first win in his last five starts against Baltimore on Sunday, despite allowing four runs and nine hits in five innings. The rookie has never faced the Yankees.

NYY: RHP Sidney Ponson (0-1, 8.78 ERA)
Ponson had a 10.00 ERA in his two starts as a Yankee, and gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings in his last start against Toronto. He most recently allowed three runs in three innings of relief against the Angels on Aug. 11.

Player to watch
Jeter has a .357 batting average (7-for-28) with four RBIs against the Red Sox this year. He is hitting .281 against them in his career.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• Game 1: YES, Game 2: WWOR

On radio
• WCBS-AM 880 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (LHP Randy Johnson, 13-9, 4.92) at Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 13-7, 5.02), 1:20 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (RHP Mike Mussina, 13-5, 3.54) at Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 14-5, 3.83), 1:20 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (RHP Cory Lidle, 9-9, 4.64) at Red Sox (LHP David Wells, 2-2, 6.06), 1:05 p.m. ET

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.