Byline: Bill Ballou
COLUMN: RED SOX
The Red Sox have been in this position before, perhaps all too often for their liking.
Backs against the wall, their season on the line, elimination from contention staring them in the face and the hated, haughty Yankees coming to Fenway Park.
Indeed, the Sox have been here before.
Just never for the season's home opener.
If Boston isn't mathematically facing elimination, it is on the verge of suffering irreparable emotional damage as it begins its 2011 Fenway schedule at 2:05 this afternoon against the Yankees. Getting swept by the Rangers in Texas to start the season was bad enough, but Sox teams have always had trouble down there, and the Rangers, as it turns out, have begun the year inconceivably hot.
Getting swept by the Indians, though, and scoring just five runs in three games - that is a much different story, and much more disturbing one. Those are the kinds of things that happen to lousy teams.
Which right now, Boston is. That's much different than what was projected, those projections including a playoff spot, a possible AL East title and a likely postseason drive that ends at the World Series.
There have even been suggestions of a 100-victory season, the franchise's first since 1946. At this rate, the Red Sox would have to go 100-56 (.641) the rest of the way to reach 100 victories. They would have to go 95-61 (.609) to get to 95 victories, the level that they figure will get them into the playoffs eight of every 10 seasons.
Today, they send John Lackey to the mound to try to break the losing streak, and off what he did in his first start at Texas this year, and off what he did last season in general, he's not exactly the stopper Boston is looking for.
However, Lackey pitched better against New York last season than he did against most opposing teams, and his best start of the year versus the Yankees was on almost the exact same date as this - April 7, 2010, when he worked six shutout innings at Fenway and left with a 1-0 lead, but got a no-decision when Daniel Bard blew the save opportunity.
In all, Lackey was 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA against New York in three starts.
The Yankees counter with Phil Hughes, who also was hammered in his first start of the season and was not throwing as hard as he normally does, an issue he also dealt with early last season. New York is 4-2, in second place in the AL East, already four games up on Boston.
Lackey's ERA after one start in 2010 is 22.09...