Red Sox- Yankees: A rivalry in rehab

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Red Sox- Yankees: A rivalry in rehab

Here we go, everybody. All together now:

Red Sox vs. Yankees . . . Can you feel it?!?

Wait a second. Is this thing on?

OK, lets try it again: Red SoxYankees, yall . . . CAN. YOU. FEEEEL IT!?!?

Damn it. Still nothing.

And you know what? I dont blame you. As the Yankees make their way to Fenway this weekend to cap off the first half of the 2012 season, theres no question that one of the most storied rivalries in sports has seen better days. And you dont need to dig too deep for reasons why:

First of all, it was (and is) much harder for Boston to hate the Yankees and I mean REALLY, with every ounce of your soul, HATE the Yankees after the Sox exorcised the demons in 2004. It's been equally difficult to regenerate that hatred when the two teams haven't played in the postseason since 2004, and instead have given us 135 regular season games that have lasted roughly 17 million hours, 16 million of which were spent waiting on pitching changes and watching batters adjust their junk with one foot out of the batter's box.

More recently, the rivalry's suffered because the Sox have too much crap going in their own house to care about the Yankees. Who's got time to hate anyone else when you're so busy hating yourself? Not to mention, whether we like it or not, the times, the names and the faces have changed. And while Red SoxYankees has always been more about the uniforms than the men wearing them, it's the players and personalities that have consistently taken things to that next level of awesomeness.

But here's the reality of this weekend's series: Mariano Riveras done for the season. Dustin Pedroia's finally (and all things considered, thankfully) headed to the DL. Sabathia's hurt. Pettitte's hurt. Ellsbury's hurt. Crawford's hurt. Instead of inciting riots out of the bullpen, Joba Chamberlain's rehabbing from a trampoline accident, and his biggest antagonizer (Kevin Youkilis) is now the most popular man in Chicago. Instead of Johnny Damon signing with the Yankees and returning home as a traitor, we have Darnell McDonald getting picked up off waivers and returning home to tepid applause. Alex Rodriguez is a few weeks from his 37th birthday, and looks every bit the part. Derek Jeter's 38 and beyond drawing the genuine ire of Sox fans. At this point, Jeter doesn't make you mad. More than anything, he makes you nostalgic.

Speaking of which, David Ortiz, one of the Red SoxYankees giants, is now a professional Debbie Downer, and he's literally the only guy in the Sox line-up with a connection to the rivalry. If tonight's batting order is the same as Wednesday's, then every Sox position player will be in either his first or second year with the team. How that's for history?

And pitching? You want pitching? You want ClemensMartinez? SchillingMussina?

How's Beckett vs. Kuroda, Morales vs. Hughes, Doubront vs. Garcia and Lester vs. Nova?

OK, you get it. And you feel it. Or more, you don't feel it. There's an enormous weekend on the horizon but it doesn't feel like Red SoxYankees. Maybe it's for all the reasons I just listed. Maybe it's because we're now 82 games into the season and these two teams have only played twice. Not two series, but two games. Maybe in this case, absence has made the heart grow indifferent and after this weekend, the rivalry will be renewed and this column will be a joke. We'll see. But either way, I'm not sure it matters.

If there was anything positive to come from last year's collapse, it's that it reminded us of just how long the season is, and how much can change in August and September. That if a team can just tread water for the first few months and get healthy down the stretch, anything is possible. And at this point, that's the only thing keeping hope alive for the 2012 Red Sox.

So on that note, take the jerseys out of the equation for a second, and consider the opportunity at hand. The Sox are hosting the AL East's first place team on the last weekend before the All-Star break. They can go in down four and a half games, they can go in down 10.5 games. In terms of treading water, the Sox have a chance to either scrape their way into the kiddie pool or cast themselves into the deep blue sea.

Bottom line: The Sox don't need a rivalry right now. They need a few wins.

Sure, if those wins come against the Yankees it will be a little bit sweeter. But with all this team has gone through, and the rivalry's currently somber state, who they beat takes a back seat to just winning in the first place, and heading into the break with "first place" within reach.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.