There will be plenty of fireworks this holiday weekend with the Major League Baseball schedule putting the game's best rivalries on the slate.  The Yankees and Red Sox got their series underway in New York last night with Boston coasting to a 7-0 win.  Meanwhile the Cubs split with the Giants in San Francisco and now travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals with the two old foes owning the best NL records currently.

This is more like it.

Now that our latest trip through the interleague jungle is over, Major League Baseball is giving us the best two rivalries in the sport: Red Sox-Yankees and Cubs-Cardinals. All four teams are competitive this year, which makes this weekend’s series that much more compelling.

These could even turn out to be the Division Series matchups come the fall. Chicago and St. Louis have the best two records in the National League; the Yankees have some catching up to do, but they were 40-42 at this point last year. Then again, the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays were 33-50.

Red Sox at Yankees
Game 2: Friday, 1:05 p.m.
BOS: Josh Beckett
NYY: Darrell Rasner

Game 3: Saturday, 3:55 p.m. (FOX)
BOS: Justin Masterson
NYY: Mike Mussina

Game 4: Sunday, 8:09 p.m. (ESPN)
BOS: Tim Wakefield
NYY: Joba Chamberlain

This series started Thursday with Jon Lester throwing a complete-game shutout as the Red Sox blanked the Yankees 7-0. So much for the resurgence of the New York batting order. Manager Joe Girardi closed the clubhouse doors for 30 minutes after the game to have a polite chat with his fallen troops; early betting odds for Friday’s matinee affair had the Yankees as +110 home dogs with a total of 9.5 runs.

We’ll get to see two of the hottest young pitchers in the majors right now in Justin Masterson (3.75 ERA, 4.34 xFIP) and Joba Chamberlain (2.22 ERA, 3.44 xFIP). Boston is 5-3 with Masterson on the mound for a profit of 2.12 units, but the rookie is benefiting from an unusually low .209 BABIP. That’s not sustainable over the long haul. Chamberlain’s Yankees are 4-2 with 0.58 units; his .322 BABIP is rather high – something around .290 is considered average.

The Red Sox (.829) and Yankees (.831) are almost equally good in Revised Zone Rating, so team defense probably isn’t the issue here. It’s not a stretch to expect Masterson to come down to earth and Chamberlain to start seeing some bigger profits.


Cubs at Cardinals
Game 1: Friday, 8:15 p.m.
CHC: Carlos Zambrano
STL: Braden Looper

Game 2: Saturday, 3:55 p.m. (FOX)
CHC: Ted Lilly
STL: Kyle Lohse

Game 3: Sunday, 3:15 p.m.
CHC: Sean Marshall
STL: Todd Wellemeyer

The I-55 Series resumes Friday with the return of Carlos Zambrano (3.13 ERA, 4.48 xFIP) after missing a couple of weeks with a strained right shoulder. The Big Z threw well in practice on Sunday and Tuesday and should be as strong as ever – bad news for the Cardinals, since current batters are hitting a combined .594 OPS against the Venezuelan native. The Cubs are –130 favorites for the series opener with a total of 8.5 runs.

Todd Wellemeyer (3.86 ERA, 4.36 xFIP) was the winning pitcher the last time these two teams met, as St. Louis took two of three at home in May. However, Wellemeyer has been fighting off a sore elbow and hasn’t gotten past five innings in any of his last three starts. The St. Louis bullpen is 23rd in the majors with a 4.18 team ERA and 20 blown saves in 45 opportunities.

To steal one from the great Gordon Solie, the Cubs hitters aren’t going to give St. Louis any surcease. They lead the National League in runs scored and a .804 team OPS, and while Alfonso Soriano (hand) remains on the shelf, Chicago welcomed back Aramis Ramirez (personal) and Reed Johnson (back spasms) to the lineup on Thursday. The Cards are third in the NL at .777 OPS; their health issues are concentrated in the pitching department.