"There's nothing like this rivalry," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "They're right on top of you. It's just something I've never felt before."
Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield counters Yankees youngster Jeff Karstens on the mound. The Yankees could have started Kei Igawa but instead chose Karstens despite the line he posted -- nine hits and seven runs in 4 1/3 innings -- against the Red Sox in his first start of the season, on April 21 in Boston.
After four quality starts to start the season, Wakefield brings his experience and knuckleball, not to mention a fine 2-2 record and 2.08 ERA, to the Bronx to bout with the Bombers.
Karstens doesn't expect the game to be overly daunting.
"I don't think it's so much that than saying, 'You know, I want to go out there and do better than I did last time and show these guys I'm capable of doing it,'" he said.
The Red Sox swept the Yankees in three games at Fenway Park one week ago. Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon switched to pinstripes after four years with the Red Sox, and Terry Francona, his former manager in Boston, said that games like those from last weekend never conclude without twists. But the sting of a sweep is still fresh for some Yankees, including Damon.
"When you have a shot to win all three games and you lose them all, it does become frustrating," he said. "But we can't get those games back, as much as we'd like."
Francona added that Friday's starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, is right where he wants to be -- caught up in one of baseball's greatest matchups.
"I think that's why he signed and wanted to play here, because of this type of a rivalry. ... I think this is why he's here," Francona said.
Yankees reliever Mike Myers played for the Red Sox in 2004 and came to the Yankees two seasons later. He's tasted both sides of the bad blood, and he knows that anything can happen when these teams take the field in either historic ballpark.
Playing the games at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium is what Yankees first baseman and former Red Sox World Series champion Doug Mientkiewicz dubbed the "cool" factor. But Myers knows that the cheers, the jeers and the gritty play are just the beginning.
"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "You can predict it's going to be an intense game and an emotional game. There will be a bunch of new things, too. You have no idea what's going to happen, other than that it's going to be two teams that -- more than likely -- are going to be battling it out at the end of the season."
The rivalry even exists in the Minor Leagues. Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner has been spotted attending games between the two teams' Minor League affiliates in past years. Young players for the Red Sox and Yankees are bred to loathe and beat each other. It peaks on days like Saturday.
While some veterans such as Yankees starter Andy Pettitte don't feel the same intensity they once did during these series, both teams' newcomers and younger players have become acquainted with the flashbulb-popping atmosphere.
"It becomes exciting, it becomes fun," Torre said. "You're watching these kids succeed at this level, and having done it themselves, they know it's not easy to do. We have a number of young people here that are enjoying the fact that they're doing it. They don't seem like they're under a great deal of pressure."