Another prime time battle on tap Sunday night

BOSTON – The national stage is all set and waiting for the Red Sox and Yankees to step on it front and center tonight. It seems like ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball loves showing the Sox and Bombers because they usually serve as a ratings booster for the television franchise.

Tonight at 8 p.m., the only game on the Major League docket will be the one at Fenway Park. When Boston and New York are on the schedule it typically elicits two different reactions. The first is excitement from the two fan bases and their legions of loyal followers all over the country. The other reaction is from fans of 28 other Major League clubs that often say “not these two again!”

While some around baseball think that the Red Sox and Yankees always seem to play on the Sunday Night stage, it is especially not true this season. They have played once on July 1 at Yankee Stadium in a game the Yankees won, 11-1. That was the game where Boston southpaw, David Price got punched in the mouth for eight earned runs on nine hits in only three and a third innings pitched. Right-hander Luis Severino spun two-hit shutout ball for the Pinstripes for six and two thirds innings.

Price ( 11-6 3.97 ERA) will get a chance for redemption in tonight’s main event opposite split-fingered fastball throwing Masahiro Tanaka (9-2 3.84 ERA) for the Yanks in what will be only the second and final time these two teams square off on Sunday Night Baseball.

Broadcast Crew

During any Sunday Night Telecast, Red Sox fans are sure to scowl at former Yankee and controversial baseball figure, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod also serves as a special advisor to the Yankees and is on their payroll. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t do an adequate job breaking down a baseball game, but you know that Sox fans bristle anytime he shows up on their TV screens.

While I don’t know Rodriguez, I do know the other two members of the crew. I first met play-by-play man, Matt Vasgersian, over 20 years ago while we both were broadcasting AAA baseball in the Pacific Coast League. Matt was doing the games on radio for the Tuscon Toros and I was doing the same for the Las Vegas Stars, who later changed thier name to the 51’s. Vasgersian had gone on to work for the Milwaukee Brewers and then the San Diego Padres before the MLB Network and ESPN gigs came up. I would see him around the circuit occasionally when he did games for Fox and MLB Network.

I met Jessica Mendoza for the first time when she was representing the United States at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The Stanford product was the best left fielder in the tournament and helped the USA beat Australia for the Gold Medal. I had the opportunity to broadcast most of Team USA’s games including the Gold Medal clincher. I saw her again four years later in Beijing, China where she hit better, but her team fell to Japan in the end and had to settle for Silver. We were reacquainted four seasons ago in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse in St. Louis prior to a non-Sunday Night game she was working for ESPN.

E-Rod Pen Work

Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodriguez has been making quick strides recovering from a sprained right ankle he suffered on July 14 while covering first base against the Blue Jays. He has spent most of his time since in a walking boot, but this afternoon will throw a bullpen at Fenway. Usually, when you start throwing bullpen sessions, a pitcher is close to returning to action. E-Rod’s manager has been impressed with his speedy recovery.

“We’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” Sox skipper Alex Cora said earlier this week. “We’re going through every step. He looks great. I told him the only thing he needs now is a pedicure.”

The Red Sox and Yankees finish up their four-game set tonight then it is a day off in Toronto tomorrow before opening a three game set with the Blue Jays on Tuesday at Rogers Centre.

Tim Neverett is in his third season as Red Sox Radio Play-By-Play Announcer for the WEEI Red Sox Radio Network throughout New England. Tim can be followed on Twitter @timneverett