The Red Sox have lost five games in May. Five. That's it. Five games.
On May 1, they turned a 4-2 ninth-inning lead into a 5-4 ten-inning loss when Jonathan Papelbon blew his first save of the year against the A's. They lost a 2-1 contest to Johan Santana and the Twins on the fifth (a game started by Julian Tavarez, incidentally). Tavarez lost again to the Orioles in his next start by a 6-3 final. Justin Verlander and the Tigers beat Tim Wakefield 7-2 on the fifteenth. Most recently, the Braves and John Smoltz took advantage of a spot start by rookie Devern Hansack to dropped a 14-0 beating on Boston.
That 2-1 loss to Santana and the Twins remains Boston's only road loss of the month.
The Red Sox have won 14 games in May. They have the best record in baseball, the biggest division lead in baseball (10.5 games over the O's and Yankees), their Pythagorean record matches their overall record, they're winning at home, on the road, against lefties, righties, against the AL, against the NL, against the East, Central, and West, in one-run games, and in blowouts. They have the third-best pitching staff in baseball (behind the pitchers park-assisted Padres and A's) and the third best offense in baseball (now tied with the Yankees behind the Indians and surging Tigers). Quite simply, they are the best team in baseball, and they're for real.
Thus far the Red Sox's only significant injury concern has been a reoccurrence of Josh Beckett's blister problems that has landed him on the 15-day DL. That might slow the Sox down in the near future (Hansack's loss on Saturday came in place of Beckett), but it won't stop them. Lefty Kason Gabbard, who posted a 3.51 ERA in 25 2/3 innings for the Sox last year, started yesterday and handed Tim Hudson just his second loss of the year. He could return to the roster when Beckett's spot comes due again. Then again, thanks to a scheduled off-day, Beckett will be eligible to return himself when the Red Sox next need a fifth starter, which means the primary impact of his injury could be simply Hansack's one loss and a couple of extra starts by Julian Tavarez, who otherwise would have been the starter getting skipped.
Incidentally, Gabbard started yesterday because the Sox are going for the jugular in the Bronx. Gabbard's spot start (he's already back in triple-A) allowed the Sox to start Tim Wakefield tonight against Chien-Ming Wang in a fantastic matchup of specialty pitchers, each of whom lost their previous outing against tonight's opponent in April.
The good news for the Yankees is that they have their Big Three starters going in this series (Wang, Mussina, Pettitte), and that Bobby Abreu and Alex Rodriguez showed some signs of life in the final two games at Shea. Abreu collected three hits, including a double, and three walks in those two games and made some hard outs in last night's contest, while Rodriguez picked up three hits and a walk of his own, two of those hits being home runs.
Oh, and Robinson Cano takes a five-game hitting streak into tonight's game. This is only Cano's second full season, but his trend thus far seems to be slow starts. He's a .249/.272/.360 hitter in May in his young career (he's hitting a very similar .241/.278/.342 overall this year), but those numbers jump to .350/.383/.541 in June (which is just ten days away). Here's hoping the trend holds.
The bad news is Mariano Rivera's continued struggles. Mo worked the ninth last night and gave up a home run to Damian Easley, the third home run he's allowed this year, two of them coming off the bats of Easley and Marco Scutaro. Mo hasn't allowed more than three home runs in a season since 2001 and hasn't allowed more than five in a season since he was a 25-year-old starting pitcher in 1995. Mo has allowed 11 earned runs this year. He hasn't allowed 20 since 2001 and hasn't allowed more than 25 since 1995. I'll be honest. For the first time in a decade, I can't say I'm comfortable with the idea of handing Mo a one-run lead in the ninth inning, and that's far more disconcerting than the 10.5 game deficit the Yankees take into this series.