Everything is just like it was scripted. The New York Yankees roll into Fenway Park to battle the Boston Red Sox for first place. Sporting the same records (68-42), both teams are on sizzling hot streaks headed for a collision course to claim supremacy in the AL East. In the Sox corner: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey. For the Yankees: CC Sabathia, Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon...huh?
Many people rolled their eyes when the two aging hurlers were picked up in the offseason for a song and slow dance and now, the two veterans figure mightily into the Yankees playoff hopes.
The 38 year-old Colon, who hadn't even pitched in the majors since 2009 while he was rehabbing his repaired his shoulder and elbow in the Dominican Republic, has been the Yankees real No. 2 starter this season after undergoing some kind of mysterious treatment for the injuries.
Garcia, 34, almost didn't make the team after spring training.
Now, the two elder statesmen are being called the adhesive which kept the shaky Yankees rotation from collapsing this season. Funny, at the beginning of the season, skeptics talked like Colon and Garcia were ready for the glue factory. They were right.
Colon and Garcia wouldn't have been the first names mentioned, as the pitchers picking up the slack when Phil Hughes went down with dead arm for most of the season and the inconsistent A.J. Burnett went into his annual June/July funk-- but they were.
For a couple of guys picked up as consolation prizes after the Yankees inability to land Mr. America, Cliff Lee, the old guys are the keys to the Yankees season.
Most experts wondered if the rotund Colon (8-6, 3.30 ERA) and the undervalued Garcia (10-7, 3.22) could make it through a whole season and-- two-thirds through-- they are actually getting better.
Colon opens the three-games series tonight against a 27 year-old toddler, Jon Lester (11-4, 3.17 ERA) and sandwiched around Sabathia is Garcia, who will square off against that "tweener," Josh Beckett.
Lester is a Yankee-killer. He boasts a 8-1 lifetime record against his division rival but Colon comes into tonight's game with a 2-1 record with a 2.45 ERA over his last three starts.
Garcia has won three in a row but has two losses this season against the Sox. He faces Beckett on Sunday night. The last time the Yankees saw Beckett, he was spectacular. He struck out 10 and allowed two runs in eight innings in an ESPN Sunday night game in April.
Both Yankees hurlers will have their hands full.
The Red Sox have their problems right now. Lackey has been inconsistent. He lost Monday after giving up five runs and eight hits against the Cleveland Indians. Now, Boston's last minute trade-deadline deal to snag a reputable starter, Erik Bedard, doesn't look as good as advertised last week.
Last night, Bedard posted a no-decision after allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings during his Red Sox debut. It threw cold water on a Boston eight-game win streak.
The Yankees come into Fenway sporting a seven game win streak themselves-- with lots of offense to boot. The Bombers scored 63 runs during that run.
It looks like the Red Sox and Yankees will be seeing a lot more of each other this season. They play three more series this year and it looks like both are headed to the playoffs. So count this series as a preliminary round.
As for Colon and Garcia's success so far. Yankees GM Brian Cashman deserves a lot of credit for taking chances on them. He heard the snickers and AARP jokes, then watched as Boston loaded up their line-up with the acquisitions of young talent like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Cashman stayed patient while fans screamed for the big names.
Cashman has been through this before. He knows when it comes to the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry, it's pitching that matters most.
Maybe that's why the Yankees GM also stayed pat at the trade deadline. He went against public opinion and refused to give up prospects for the suspect Ubaldo Jimenez and stuck with Ivan Nova. Looks like a brilliant move right now.
Cashman knows it's all about the arms-- sometimes they just happen to be a little older.