NEW YORK In a season of goodbyes, a milestone will pass at Yankee Stadium this week when the Boston Red Sox make their final visit.
"Because of the media and the fans, there's more energy or electricity in the ballpark, but you can't bring in a pitcher an inning earlier. They don't give you two wins when you beat the Yankees, so you can't do it differently," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said ahead of the three-game series, which opened today.
The Yankees, whose streak of consecutive playoff appearances is in danger of ending at 14, enter third in their division, 9 1/2 games back of AL East-leading Tampa Bay. They also trail Boston, the wild-card leader, by five games.
Hank Steinbrenner said he thinks his Yankees can still put together late surge and make the playoffs.
"If we put on a run here, there's no question we can make it," Steinbrenner, a Yankees' co-chairman, said Monday night at the team's spring training complex in Tampa, Fla. "There's no question with the number of games we have left, it's possible."
Steinbrenner is planning to be at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday for the game against Boston.
"We're going pretty good right now," he said. "We're fighting right now. We'll just see what happens."
New York holds a 483-283 advantage over Boston in the 770 regular-season games between the rivals at Yankee Stadium, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. There have been four ties.
"I'm just glad at this juncture it's at Yankee Stadium," Steinbrenner said. "The Red Sox, obviously, are almost unbeatable at Fenway."
They've also met in the 1999, 2003 and 2004 AL championship series, with the Yankees holding a 6-4 edge in those games. Yankees' fans still smart from 2004, when the Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series and won the AL pennant at Yankee Stadium. Boston went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1918, then won again last year.
"I'm looking forward to it. That's what you play baseball for is that type of atmosphere, those type of games," said outfielder Jason Bay, acquired by Boston from Pittsburgh last month.
Andy Pettitte (13-9) starts for the Yankees in the opener against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-8), and Sidney Ponson (7-4) pitches against Paul Byrd (8-11) on Wednesday night. In Thursday afternoon's series finale, Mike Mussina (16-7) will go for the Yankees against Jon Lester (12-5).
New York will miss Daisuke Matsuzaka (15-2), who started Sunday at Boston, and Josh Beckett (11-9), sidelined by numbness and tingling in his pitching arm.
Francona doesn't think he will dwell much on the history of the rivalry and the ballpark during the games."I guess I felt more of that during the All-Star game because it was an All-Star game and you had time to maybe think about things," he said. "When we're playing the team, we're just trying to beat them. That's really what I care about. I don't get too caught up in the other stuff."
Notes: Yankees RHP Joba Chamberlain threw a 35-pitch bullpen session at Yankee Stadium and is scheduled for another bullpen session Thursday. He has not pitched since Aug. 4 because of rotator cuff tendinitis. ... The Yankees extended their player development contract with the Class A Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League for four years.