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Yanks gear up for first trip to Fenway

Yanks gear up for first trip to Fenway

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KANSAS CITY -- You could make a strong case that the Yankees and the Red Sox, in their respective bids for the American League East, actually possess many of the same strengths and weaknesses.

The Yankees' season-opening power outage notwithstanding, both big-market, big-money clubs have been designed as offensive juggernauts, capable of pounding mediocre pitching and creating very long workdays at the ballpark.

The Red Sox may have their true ace in Josh Beckett, but the Yankees can counter with a 19-game winner in Chien-Ming Wang, a pitcher they feel confident sending out every fifth day. And there are prominent injuries -- the Yankees have limited use of Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, while the Red Sox prepare for life without Mike Lowell and Alex Cora.

There are recognizable closers finishing games, hot young prospects on the rise, some shaky items in the back end of the rotation and question marks in middle relief. Oh, and both teams are 5-5. Sound familiar?

"I think there are similarities," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I think they're happy with their young players, like we are, and I think they believe that their young players are going to blossom, like we believe. To me, that's how you keep from getting old as a club -- you keep bringing up youth. It's a good mixture."

The Yankees and the Red Sox play the first three of 18 scheduled games head-to-head on Friday, as New York visits Fenway Park for its second road series of the new season. Wang draws the nod against Boston's touted Clay Buchholz.

The trip will be slightly different than those in past years for the Yankees, who will walk through the 1912-era building knowing that they have not only entered the home of the defending division champs, but for the second time in four years, the Red Sox have a world championship banner to show off.

"They filled a lot of positions last year to be in that situation," said Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon. "They probably played the best of any team all throughout the season, so they definitely deserved to win."

Damon, a member of that celebrated 2004 World Series squad, has lost much of his connection to the Red Sox -- that sort of thing tends to happen when you accept a four-year deal with the organization's most hated rival.

But Damon, who still counts an army of friends in the Boston area, doesn't believe that seeing the Red Sox's latest championship banner will provide the Yankees with any additional motivation.

"Over the two years that I've been here, I feel like we've had a good enough team to do that," Damon said. "It's just a matter of getting the job done."


"It's great anytime you go into ballparks and it's full, whether it's for you or against you, and I think it's a good environment. It's loud, and people are on the edge of their seats. I always think that's a good environment for athletes to play in."
-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi

For Girardi, this will mark his first venture to Fenway Park as a Yankees manager, though he has experienced the rivalry of Yankees vs. Red Sox as a player, coach and broadcaster.

Girardi is expecting a much more charged atmosphere than the two clubs had when they met at Legends Field in Tampa, Fla. for a Grapefruit League matchup last month, though that exhibition had just as much jazz in the stands as a meaningless game possibly could. On Friday, it counts for real.

"I think it'll be just as hostile, enjoyable and intense," Girardi said. "It's great anytime you go into ballparks and it's full, whether it's for you or against you, and I think it's a good environment. It's loud, and people are on the edge of their seats. I always think that's a good environment for athletes to play in."

The Yankees hand the ball to Wang, a 38-game winner over the last two seasons, in the first game.

"Obviously, you feel comfortable whenever he's on the mound just because of his past and what he's done," Girardi said.

Wang intends to continue trying to modify his game to put the Red Sox off-balance: Last season, former pitching coach Ron Guidry suggested that Wang incorporate more changeups against AL East clubs because it appeared some lineups -- Boston included -- had figured out how to sit on Wang's bowling-ball-like sinker and reduce its effectiveness.

Going to secondary pitches was a work in progress during Spring Training for the Taiwanese right-hander, but the dress rehearsals are over. Wang will have his best test yet to see how Guidry's old advice holds up.

"They were sitting on my sinker," Wang said. "I threw more soft, and it helped."

Wang has pitched in the playoffs -- to less-than-desirable results, the Yankees would bemoan -- and in the Olympic Games, but he would agree that there's nothing that quite compares to the raw energy when the Yankees and Red Sox clash. He says that, even at Fenway, it's an environment he enjoys.

"The fans are crazy," Wang said. "It's not bad, it's not good. Sometimes you laugh."

Pitching matchup
NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2-0, 1.38 ERA)
Wang took a no-hitter into the fifth on Sunday, when he blanked the Rays for six innings. A high pitch count kept Wang from lasting deeper into the game, but it was enough for him to earn his second win. He'll look for No. 3 against the Red Sox, a team he beat three times in five starts last year. For his career, Wang holds a 2-3 record and 6.17 ERA at Fenway Park. Wang last faced the Red Sox on Sept. 15 at Fenway Park, suffering the loss in a 10-1 rout. He surrendered five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

BOS: RHP Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.40 ERA)
Although his pitching line might not show it, Buchholz took a step in the right direction with his performance against the Blue Jays in his last outing. The 23-year-old right-hander used all four of his pitches effectively en route to surrendering four runs on six hits while striking out seven and walking two. If it weren't for an error by first baseman Sean Casey and a few bloop hits by Toronto's offense, those numbers would have looked even more impressive. Buchholz has never faced the Yankees during his young career but is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two career starts at Fenway Park.

Tidbits
The Yankees are 21-2 when Joba Chamberlain appears. ... The Yankees hit back-to-back home runs on Thursday (Rodriguez, Posada) for the first time since Jason Giambi and Robinson Cano did it at Boston on Sept. 14, 2007. ... Manny Ramirez is 13-for-22 with two homers and five RBIs lifetime against Wang. David Ortiz is 15-for-30 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• YES

On radio
• WCBS 880, WNSW 1430 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Yankees (Mike Mussina, 1-1, 3.09) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 0-1, 9.64), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Yankees (Phil Hughes, 0-1, 5.00) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2-0, 1.47), 8:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Yankees (Ian Kennedy, 0-1, 13.50) at Rays (Andy Sonnanstine, 1-1, 6.00), 7:10 p.m. ET

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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