8 a.m. ET: The Boston Red Sox (63-78) may no longer be in the playoff hunt, but that doesn't mean they aren't playing meaningful games. In fact, the Red Sox have an opportunity to make September a miserable month for their biggest rival.
As the New York Yankees (79-61) come to town, the star-studded squad finds itself one game up in the American League East on a Baltimore Orioles team comprised largely of no-names and spare parts. Moreover, Baltimore is just a game ahead of Tampa Bay and a game and a half above Los Angeles in the wild card hunt, so if New York doesn't play well through the first week of October, missing the playoffs is a very real possibility.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, are in a total freefall, having lost 11 of their past 12 games. They have the exact same number of wins in September as the New England Patriots. That being said, there are still some individual performances that have given the Sox reason for optimism, and denting the playoff hopes of New York would go a long way toward righting the bad feelings of a lost season.
One of the recent bright spots for Boston has been Jon Lester (9-11, 4.99), who has looked to be on his way to returning to form after enduring — like the rest of the team — a very tough season. In five July starts, Lester allowed opposing hitters a 1.059 OPS, going 0-3. Since the calendar switched to August, however, Lester has yielded just a .659 OPS in 48 2/3 innings, going 4-3.
Opposing the southpaw will be arguably the Yankees' best starter on the 2012 campaign, Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.14). The right-hander has started three times against the Sox this season, posting a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings, winning one game and receiving two no decisions.
First pitch is schedule for 7:10 p.m. ET, but you can tune into NESN beginning at 6 p.m. for Red Sox First Pitch and the rest of your pregame lineup. Or just stick right here with NESN.com, we'll have the starting lineups and, as Vin Scully would say, "all the stats and stories" right here in our live blog leading up to the game.
And be sure to follow this live blogger on Twitter at @ZachStoloff, as I'll be writing, blogging and tweeting live from Fenway Park.