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Standing Eight Count

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Bombers Look to Avenge 0-For Mark Against Boston Terry Francona said it best. "What happened in those games before means absolutely nothing tonight," the Boston skipper said in the pre-game press conference on Thursday prior ...

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Bombers Look to Avenge 0-For Mark Against Boston

Terry Francona said it best. "What happened in those games before means absolutely nothing tonight," the Boston skipper said in the pre-game press conference on Thursday prior to the opening of a four-game set at the new Yankee Stadium. What he was referring to was the Red Sox's domination of the Bronx Bombers in their first eight meetings this season.

The two American League East powerhouses last met in June at Fenway Park with the BoSox taking three. After ace Josh Beckett shut out the Yanks, 7-0, the Red Sox won two one-run games.

In May, Boston came into town and promptly won a short two-game set, with Beckett once again pitching effectively in a 7-3 decision over Joba Chamberlain. Back in April, the Yankees were swept in Boston over the weekend. All told, it was the first time that Boston had swept the Yankees in three consecutive series in the same season since 1974.

Another interesting point is that only two other teams (the 1912 Red Sox and 1999 Oakland A's) have won their first eight or more games against the Yankees in the team's 106-year history.

But on this early August evening at the bandbox in the Bronx, none of that mattered. The Yankees have since turned things around and have actually overtaken Boston for first place in the division, leading by two and half games. On a three-game winning streak, the Bombers can set themselves up for a good season by taking at least three games from their arch rivals.

The situation would seem to be ripe with Jason Bay, the Red Sox leftfielder, out with an injury. The replacement for Manny Ramirez hit safely in all eight of the previous games between the two clubs this summer, batting .448 (13-for29) with three home runs and 12 RBI. "He could be out the whole weekend," admitted Francona, a prognosis that did not seem positive.

"They're a different team now and so are we," the manager continued. "Those games (previous eight) were a long time ago."

One big addition to the Red Sox is Victor Martinez, who was acquired on July 31 from the Cleveland Indians. "Victor was a very popular player in Cleveland," said Francona. "He's going to catch for us, play some first base and even DH some days." Martinez has hit safely in his first four games in Beantown (three at first base and one behind the plate) and belted his first homer with his new club the day before the series in the Bronx.

Perhaps as a sign of good things to come, Muhammad Ali made an appearance in a pre-game ceremony at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. "The Greatest" will be honored and be a part of a delegation presenting Yankee Stadium with the American Academy of Hospitality Services "Six Star Diamond Award." The 67-year-old was a three-time heavyweight champion and a 1960 Olympic gold medalist and became a part of Yankee Stadium lore when he defeated Ken Norton in a 15-round unanimous decision at the original building on September 28, 1976.

The former boxing icon may be able to rub off some of his charisma on the Bombers. After the way things went in the first eight meetings, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee may be necessary.