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Thursday, April 7, 2011
Red Sox-Yankees scouting report

By Wallace Matthews and Joe McDonald
ESPNNewYork.com and ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- With the Red Sox and Yankees set to kick off a three-game series at Fenway Park this weekend in their first meeting of 2011, we asked our beat writers for each team -- Wallace Matthews from ESPNNewYork.com and Joe McDonald from ESPNBoston.com -- to give us their view on which team has the edge in five categories:


STARTING PITCHING

Matthews: On paper, the Yankees' biggest weakness, and in practice so far, another question mark added with the concerns about Phil Hughes' mysterious drop in velocity. But this weekend, the matchups -- Hughes vs. John Lackey on Friday, Ivan Nova vs. Clay Buchholz on Saturday, and CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett Sunday night -- are nowhere near one-sided. Give the Red Sox a slight edge on Saturday because of Nova's inexperience, and Yankees a significant edge on Sunday with the steady Sabathia vs. the erratic Beckett. Hughes-Lackey? At both their bests, I'll take Hughes. EDGE (slight): Yankees

McDonald: The Red Sox have one of the best starting rotations in baseball. They're led by ace Jon Lester and followed by Lackey, Buchholz, Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The key for Boston in this category will be the success of Beckett and Matsuzaka on the back end. The Yankees have Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Hughes, Nova and Freddy Garcia as their starting pitchers. Lester and Sabathia are two of the best lefties in the game, but after that the edge goes to the Red Sox (despite not getting a win through the first six starts of the season). EDGE: Red Sox


BULLPEN

Matthews: On paper, the area of most improvement for the Yankees is the bullpen, Tuesday's meltdown aside. No one matches up with Mariano Rivera, of course, and Joba Chamberlain has so far pitched about as well as the Yankees could hope. Rafael Soriano needs to bounce back from his meltdown the other night, but on most nights he will lock down the eighth inning. And last year, the Yankees seemed to have Jonathan Papelbon's number. EDGE: Yankees

McDonald: This is another category where the Red Sox have a slight edge with the likes of Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler, Matt Albers and Papelbon. Of course, no one is better than Rivera, so you have to give New York the nod in the closer's category. EDGE (slight): Red Sox


LINEUP

Matthews: The Red Sox added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to an already potent lineup; the Yankees lineup, largely unchanged, scored more runs than any team in baseball last season. Even if Mark Teixeira and Gonzalez are pretty much a wash -- Tex has hit more HRs and driven in more runs versus the Red Sox the past two years than any other player in baseball -- Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are better than their Boston counterparts, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro and Dustin Pedroia. In the outfield, Crawford is an upgrade over Brett Gardner, especially in terms of power. I would take Curtis Granderson over Jacoby Ellsbury for the same reason. EDGE: Yankees

McDonald: Both lineups are potent. From top to bottom, however, the Red Sox are scary (their painfully slow start notwithstanding). When the Red Sox added Gonzalez and Crawford, it gave Boston the edge in this category. The Red Sox have speed, power and versatility in the order with interchangeable parts throughout. EDGE: Red Sox


BENCH

Matthews: Another area of upgrade for the Yankees. A diminished Andruw Jones is a power upgrade over Marcus Thames, Eduardo Nunez is bigger, stronger and more versatile than Ramiro Pena and Eric Chavez could be a huge asset to this club, both off the bench and as a substitute for A-Rod and Teixeira. EDGE: Yankees

McDonald: The Red Sox have super utility man Jed Lowrie, outfielders Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald, along with veteran catcher and team captain Jason Varitek. That's as impressive a bench as you'll find. EDGE: Red Sox


MANAGER

Matthews: Here's where it gets tough. Terry Francona wasn't able to coax a win out of his highly touted -- and expensive -- new roster in the first six games of the season. Joe Girardi may have helped give away a win to the Twins on Tuesday night. Girardi is smart, intuitive and prepared. Sometimes too prepared. Also has a tendency to overmanage, especially in games he thinks are important. EDGE: Red Sox

McDonald: With all the injuries the Red Sox had in 2010, Francona kept the club afloat and Boston still finished with 89 wins. He has a pair of World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. The Yankees won the Series in 2009 with Girardi. Because of his longevity and success, I'll give the nod to Francona. EDGE: Red Sox

Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNBoston.com. Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.