Yanks hope Karstens can contain Sox

Yanks hope Karstens can contain Sox

Yankees starter Jeff Karstens was in Tampa, Fla., rehabbing his right elbow last Saturday when he flipped on ESPN to watch the highlights of the Red Sox-Angels game. He lingered just long enough to see Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz launch an outside fastball into the hitter's backdrop at Fenway Park, 400 feet from home plate.

"He hit a pitch out and away," Karstens said. "Dead center."

What made the home run particularly damaging, Karstens found, was not the quality of the blast -- Ortiz has made a habit of such displays -- but the situation. After a leadoff single and a walk, Ortiz's three-run homer turned what had been a relatively close affair into an 8-0 blowout.

If Karstens plans to avoid similar situations in his first career start against the Red Sox -- and first appearance of the 2007 season -- he will have to be more judicious about keeping runners off the bases. Long, patient counts, bruising at-bats and home runs are hallmarks of the modern Yankees-Red Sox series.

Saturday's game, in other words, is no ordinary first assignment.

"You've got to throw strikes and get ahead," said Karstens, who missed the first three weeks of the season with right elbow tendinitis. "That's a big part of it. If you don't get ahead and you fall behind, these guys are Major League hitters, and they're going to take advantage of it."

Meanwhile, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett faces an equally if not more pressing situation on Saturday: keeping Alex Rodriguez on the bases or, in other words, inside the park.

The Yankees third baseman set a Major League record for fewest games (15) to 12 home runs with his 11th and 12th on Friday night at Fenway Park. Both times, both off Sox starter Curt Schilling, Rodriguez managed to send the ball sailing out of the yard with apparent flicks of the wrist.

"He's remarkable," said Yankees manager Joe Torre. "I've run out of words and superlatives to describe what he's into right now."

Nonetheless, it was more pitching, not hitting, that New York needed on Friday night.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (3-0, 1.50 ERA)
Beckett has won his first three starts for the second straight season, allowing just one run in each of his three starts in 2007. That makes him a tough customer for the Yankees, but New York has fared reasonably well against Beckett in the past. Last Aug. 19, they tagged him for nine runs in 5 2/3 innings at Fenway Park, where Beckett established a career worst with nine walks.

NYY: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-1, 3.80 ERA in 2006)
Karstens faced six different American League teams last year after joining the Yankees, but the Red Sox weren't one of them. The Yankees were 3-3 in Karstens' starts.

Player to watch
Keep watching Jason Giambi, who has recently leveled out his stroke and seems to be cracking an early-season skid. Giambi hasn't faced Beckett as many times as some of his Yankees teammates, but he's punished him plenty -- in seven at-bats, Giambi has two homers and five RBIs.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WCBS-AM 880 AM, WZAA-FM 92.3 FM (Espa?ol)

Up next
• Sunday: Yankees (LHP Chase Wright, 1-0, 5.40) at Red Sox (RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1-2, 2.70), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (LHP Kei Igawa, 1-0, 6.06) at Devil Rays (LHP Casey Fossum, 1-1, 6.11), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: Yankees (RHP Chien-Ming Wang, 19-6, 3.63 in '06) at Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir, 1-1, 5.25), 7:10 p.m. ET

Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.