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Bombers look to make dent in standings

Bombers look to make dent in standings

The vibe may be a little different by the time the Yankees' team bus pulls up on Yawkey Way on Friday afternoon, unloading cases of road-gray New York uniforms, equipment and -- of course -- the 25 members of the team that greater New England loves to hate.

Yes, it is still the Yankees and the Red Sox, and the intensity that those two passionate fan bases hold for the rivalry can't be diminished by the sluggish opening two months of the Bombers' season.

But it's an inescapable fact that the seasons have played, for the most part, into mirror images, with the Yankees struggling and the Red Sox dominating in the American League East.

This current tilt at the Fens won't change the structure of the divisional race, but as Yankees manager Joe Torre says, the standings go out the window any time the two clubs meet to play out a nine-inning battle.

"To me, it's still playing the Red Sox and it's still going to be nuts," Torre said. "Again, we're beaten up -- I don't mean physically as much as emotionally -- from what we've been going through. I don't think we're probably firing on all cylinders right now, with what's been going on, but hopefully we'll find that."

Head-to-head, the Yankees went 1-5 against the Red Sox in April and took two out of three from Boston at Yankee Stadium in May. When they report to the cramped visitors' locker room underneath the third-base grandstand at Fenway Park, the calendar will have already turned to June, and the Yankees can only hope that it spells different results.

"When we pitch well, we haven't really swung the bats well," said Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "It's definitely been a frustrating run, the last two weeks or so. All you say is one day at a time. It's got to start with one win."

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

Perhaps the Yankees got that ball rolling in the final game of their series north of the border on Wednesday, snapping up a 10-5 decision from the Toronto Blue Jays.

It wasn't the prettiest of performances, and the Yankees' thirst for a victory showed in a ninth-inning play where Rodriguez shouted in the ear of Toronto third baseman Howie Clark, but desperate times may have called for desperate measures.

"We need to win," Derek Jeter said. "Every game is important. We need to win every time we go out there. We have to have the attitude of that we need to win, because we don't have the luxury of not playing well."

Carrying a winning streak into Fenway Park -- even if it is just of the one game variety -- can never be underestimated, if only because the Yankees could use something to back themselves up from the chants and catcalls that are sure to come.

"A lot of people in baseball are laughing and enjoying what's going on, and I'm not OK with that," Rodriguez said. "This is very frustrating to be involved with, but we'll turn it around."

If the weekend plays out with the craziness as so many before it have, the Yankees feel like having a little luck on their side couldn't possibly be a bad thing.

"This lifted a real cloud off of us, especially with the off-day [Thursday]," Torre said. "To have to carry that through the off-day and then into Boston would have been very difficult. Hopefully, the way we have our pitching lined up, we can start competing and have some good results."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (3-4, 4.13 ERA)
Wang allowed three runs in the first inning of his previous start against the Angels but settled in to hold the Halos scoreless over the next seven innings of a six-strikeout, six-hit performance. Wang hasn't allowed a home run to a right-handed batter all year and has induced at least one ground-ball double play in each of his past seven starts, matching the longest streak of his career.

BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (5-5, 3.36 ERA)
Wakefield won for the first time in three starts Saturday against the Rangers in Arlington, giving up four runs on five hits in seven innings. Over his past three starts, Wakefield has allowed 15 runs over 19 innings. In three starts this season at Fenway, he is 1-2 with a 4.05 ERA and has allowed three home runs in 20 innings. The knuckleballer is 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA in two starts this year against the Yankees, who are batting .326 against him. In 44 career games (27 starts) against New York, Wakefield is 9-15 with a 4.76 ERA.

Player to watch
Plenty of Red Sox batters have seen the ball well against Wang, but Manny Ramirez has the best batting average (.579) against the Taiwanese right-hander. The left fielder has stroked 11 hits in 19 at-bats against Wang, including two homers and five RBIs.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• YES

On radio
• 880 AM WCBS, WQBU-FM 92.7 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 2-3, 5.86) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 5-2, 3.68)
• Sunday: Yankees (Andy Pettitte, 3-4, 2.51) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 8-0, 2.65)
• Monday: Yankees (Roger Clemens, 7-6, 2.30 in '06) at White Sox (Jon Garland, 3-3, 3.91)

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

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