Red Sox manager Terry Francona has no issue mixing and matching in his bullpen. He has weapons he can throw out there against lefties, righties or whoever happens to be next on the lineup card.
The Yankees, though, have a lineup full of switch-hitters; that includes Mark Teixeira, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher, Joe Girardi's No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 hitters on Friday night. That'll make for a little bit of a challenge as Francona employs those weapons.
"You know how much we talk on our side about balance and not letting a manager make one more and running through, you know, four lefthanders," the Red Sox manager said. "Some of it is going to depend on how they're swinging the bat. But it creates challenges, sure."
He then paused.
"It makes Oki" -- Hideki Okajima -- "an important pitcher in this series," he said.
How so? Here's the Yankees' lineup for Friday:
Jeter, ss (R)
Damon, cf (L)
Teixeira, 1b (S)
Posada, dh (S)
Swisher, rf (S)
Cano, 2b (L)
Cabrera, cf (S)
Molina, c (R)
Ransom, 3b (R)
And here's a look at how those switch-hitters break down -- and who Francona is likely to call upon if he needs an out in a big spot:
* As a righty: .309/.393/.540
* As a lefty: .280/.370/.540
* Best relief option: Manny Delcarmen. Teixeira's career slugging percentages are identical, but it's far more difficult to hit a home run into the bullpen than to hit a home run over the Green Monster. Bringing in Delcarmen would force Teixeira to hit lefthanded -- and Delcarmen is actually better against lefties (.222 batting average) than against righties (.242).
* Worst relief option: Javier Lopez. Not only would Teixeira get an easy crack at the Green Monster from the righthanded batter's box, but he'd be doing so against a pitcher who has seen righties hit .288 and slug .428 against him in his career.
* As a righty: .301/.384/.501
* As a lefty: .267/.378/.468
* Best relief option: Okajima, which is a little counterintuitive. The Red Sox might prefer that Posada hit lefthanded, but he's 0-for-7 in his career against Okajima, including three strikeouts. That's a big enough sample size to make the Red Sox take notice. Besides, Okajima has been almost as effective in his career against righties (.205 batting average) as he is against lefties (.196).
* Worst relief option: Lopez. Posada is 2-for-3 with two walks in his career against him.
* As a righty: .242/.340/.463
* As a lefty: .255/.396/.442
* Best relief option: Okajima. The splits are relatively even for Swisher, and with lefty Robinson Cano hitting behind him in the order, it would make sense to send a lefty after him with an eye on getting two outs rather than one.
* Worst relief option: Ramon Ramirez. Not only is he far less effective against lefties (.270) than righties (.197), Swisher hit a two-run home run off him the only time he's ever faced him.
* As a righty: .254/.323/.338
* As a lefty: .274/.333/.398
* Best relief option: Ramirez. As with Swisher, the splits aren't all that significant -- and if Ramirez can get past Cabrera, he's then in position to tear through the three straight righties that follow him in the order. Delcarmen, for the reasons outlined in the Teixeira section, wouldn't be a bad option, either. But if Okajima already is in the game to face Posada, Swisher and/or Cano, there's no reason not to let him pitch to Cabrera.
* Worst relief option: Actually, probably Jonathan Papelbon. Cabrera is 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and a pair of walks in his career against the Red Sox closer.