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Two nights ago the Yankees bullpen was simply awful. Chan Ho Park and his teammates allowed 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in just 2.2 innings, blew a two-run lead and the game. Last night the combination of Alfredo Aceves, Damaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera shut down the Red Sox and led the Yankees to victory, 6-4 over the Sox.

Aceves threw two perfect innings on his way to the win. Marte retired the only batter he needed to, David Ortiz. Joba threw the ball better than he has in a long time. And Mo was Mo.

Joba was the biggest story tonight for the Yanks, especially after that shaky performance on Sunday. For this one night, he look a lot like the Joba of old. Maybe he wasn’t throwing as hard, but he was just as dominating. With the tying run on second base and one out in a noisy Fenway Park, Joba came in to strike out Adrian Beltre and J.D. Drew on nine pitches. Behind 2-1 in the count, Joba got Drew to swing and miss on back-to-back sliders to end the inning. Joba then threw in one of his fist pumps.

A.J. Burnett lasted just five innings. He made two major mistakes in the game, both to Victor Martinez. The first coming with the score tied in the 3rd when Martinez launched a two-run homer. Then, with the score now tied at three in the 5th, Martinez struck again with an RBI double. In five innings Burnett allowed 4 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits and a walk, and struck out 5.

Jon Lester was no better for Boston, although early on it looked like he would be. In 5 innings he allowed 4 runs on 5 hits, walked 3, and struck out 4.

Nick Swisher got the Yankees on the board with an RBI double. He’s now 3-for-7 on the young season and has looked very good.

Lester would hold the Yankees off the board for the next two innings and by the fifth they were finally able to break through. Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter started the inning with back-to-back singles. Lester then loaded the bases for Mark Teixeira by hitting Nick Johnson with a pitch. Tex didn’t do much damage, but he hustled his way out of a DP and drove in the Yankees second run. Alex Rodriguez tied the game win a line drive RBI double into the left field corner. Robinson Cano then gave the Yankees the lead with a sac fly, and Cano had a solo homer in the ninth to give the Yankees an insurance run.

It took the Yankees four months to get their first win against the Sox last year. This year it took them only two days. Tonight they should go for their second victory over the Sox. Tonight should be another battle with Andy Pettitte facing former Angel, John Lackey as he makes his Boston debut. Game time is 7:10 p.m. and you can catch the game on YES and ESPN2.

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2009 Record: 95-67, 2nd in AL East

Key Losses: Jason Bay-LF (free agent)

Key Additions: John Lackey-P (free agent); Adrian Beltre-3B (free agent); Mike Cameron-CF; Marco Scutaro-SS (free agent)

This is one of the fun things about having a blog with two authors-occasionally we write contradicting things.  Usually we agree about baseball related matters and predictions and most of what he has said this preseason, I have agreed with.

But I am going to disagree on one thing.  In his well written prediction of the Tampa Bay Rays season, he forecasts a 92-70, 3rd in the AL East finish.  I pretty much agree that on the record (I predict 94-68) but I actually see that record earning the Rays 2nd place in the AL East and the AL Wild Card.  That obviously leaves the Sox back in third place.

On paper, I love the Boston starting pitchers.  Josh Beckett has been a dominating pitcher year in and year out since 2003 and will serve as the team’s ace again in 2010.  Jon Lester and new addition John Lackey could be aces on 10 American League teams right now.  Tim Wakefield has had another decent spring and Clay Bucholz has proven to be a strong young pitcher.  The team also has Daisuke Matsuzaka starting the season on the disabled list and although he hasn’t been the dominating pitcher recently that he was when he broke into the league, I’d definitely take him as a 6th option for the rotation any day.

The bullpen was top 5 in MLB last season and they bring back most of their guys.  Jonathon Papelbon is the second-best closer in the AL, but he’s obnoxious and thinks a little too highly of himself.  Still, you don’t want to see him coming out of the bullpen when you’re down 1 run in the ninth.

What I don’t like about the team is their lack of offense.  It’s true that no team wins a championship without strong pitching but I think GM Theo Epstein has spent too much money and effort on starting pitching and not enough on bats.  It’s great if your pitchers can hold teams to 4 runs a game or less, but only if your team can score 6 or more a game and I don’t think this team has the bats to create 900 runs this season.  They hit 872 last season, but this is not last season’s lineup.

Most notably missing is Jason Bay, who was essentially ignored by the Boston front office in the off-season and signed with the NY Mets.  I like the first four guys in the lineup, but really no one else. Jacoby Ellsbury is “wicked” fast at the top of the lineup, Dustin Pedroia gets hits and gets on base, Victor Martinez had a .405 OBP in 56 games for the Sox last season and Kevin Youkilis is dangerous at the plate and can easily get 90 RBI.

Everyone else is kind of old and washed up.  David Ortiz is heading into his 14th big league season and probably his 4th or 5th without performance enhancing drugs.  He has degraded to a guy who hits 20 homers, but with a .250 batting average.  Mike Cameron is fast and traditionally has had a strong OBP, but he’s horrible at the plate (.250 BA last season).  I am also skeptical of guys who can’t latch on for more than two years with one team.

Adrian Beltre is still supposed to be in his peak at age 30, but at the end of the day, he’s a career .270 hitter.  JD Drew is inconsistent and possibly washed up.  Marco Scutaro is young and possibly still growing stronger as a hitter, but I think it might be hard to hit without anyone on base in front of you and two outs.

Still, this team is super dangerous.  If one or two of the old guys pull out a surprise season at the plate and Scutaro exceeds expectations, this team will have what it takes to win their 3rd championship in 7 years.  I just don’t think they can do it.

2010 Season Prediction: 89-73, 3rd in AL East

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