It’s happening.  Yankees vs. Red Sox.  The best rivalry in sports, hands down.  The battle for first place in the American League East Division.  Can you feel the excitement?!?  I hope its not just me…

The Yankees travel to Fenway Park for the second time this season and the first time since turning their season around in mid-May.  Since that time, the Yankees have been everything we all hoped they would be – and sometimes more.  However, not counting wins against Philly and Texas, the Yankees have not really faced any very strong teams – until this past week.

The Yankees, who had been 2-5 against the Tampa Bay Rays this season, managed to take 2 of 3 from the defending AL Champs this past weekend, including a gorgeous come-from-behind victory on Sunday.  Now atop the AL East standings, the Yankees look to pad their 1 game lead.

Despite winning two-straight, 3 of 4 and 19 of their last 25 I have some reservations about this team going into this series.

First, the Red Sox have had the Yankees number as of late.  The Sox have won 6 straight games against the Yanks going back to last season and have won 5 in a row this season.  If the Sox win Tuesday night, it will be the first time since 1974 that Boston has won 6 straight against NY in one season.

Second, after setting an MLB record with 18 straight games without an error, the Yankees have now had an error in their last six straight.

Third, in the last 5 games the Yankees are 4-34 with runners in scoring position (.118 BA)

Fourth, AJ Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang are pitching the next two games.  Burnett pitches the first game, and he had a horrible outing the last time he was in Fenway, allowing 8 runs in 5 innings.  Wang is still vulnerable on the mound and hopefully he can hold up against the pressure and pitch the type of game we all know he is capable of.

I do feel that these two hold the key to the Yankees winning this series.  If the Yankees lose the first two games because of these two, I would not be surprised to see them lose the third, no matter how good CC Sabathia is pitching.  He might throw  no-hitter, but he sure as heck won’t get much offense if the first two games are lost.

Finally, Mariano Rivera has pitched in each of the last three games – the first time this season he has had to work this hard.  The Yankees need to give him at least Tuesday night off, hopefully by getting off to a commanding lead in the early innings.

That being said, there are a ton of reasons why they should win this series.

First, Mark Teixeira has been hot, hot. hot as of late, including knocking in 8 homers in his last 14 games.

Second, Nick Swisher has remembered how to hit again.  He is 12-31 with 8 RBI in his last 11 games.

Third, CC Sabathia is an ACE.  All the Yankees need to do is score 4 runs in any game he pitches and they will at least tie the score, most times they’ll win.

Fourth, Phil Franchise.  I love the idea of Hughes in the bullpen.  The only chink in the Bombers’ armor is their bullpen.  Hughes provides the team with a long reliever you can count on.

Fifth, AJ Burnett’s cream pies and Johnny Damon’s WWE World Championship Belt (currently in Rivera’s locker.)

Sixth, the Yankees are CLUTCH.  They have 20 come from behind victories this season and are 9-4 in one-run games.  When the game is on the line, everyone in the lineup (except for ARod of course) steps up and makes it happen.  Guys you want at the plate with the game on the line with two outs: Derek Jeter, Melky Cabrera, Mark Teixeira or Robinson Cano.  Chances are. one or more of those four guys will come up in that inning.

First game is Tuesday 7:10 on MY9.