There are some things we’ve always known about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry. Like a Sunday night matchup between the two AL East foes will stretch deep into the night – 10 innings deep, ending with a 3-2 Red Sox win. Art takes time, they say, so when baseball Rembrandts are creating a masterpiece, we can’t expect them to do it on our timetable.

That said, there are several things we learned watching the Sox and Yanks hammer away at one another over the weekend:

Adrian Gonzalez might be the most important hitter in the Red Sox lineup, but Jacoby Ellsbury is playing like the most valuable player in the American League. Stunningly, he began the week with the best slugging percentage in the entire league since July 1. We’ve always thought of him as a 70 stolen base guy, but he is suddenly a blossoming star who could wind up leading the Sox in home runs by the end of the year.

Josh Beckett is pitching like an ace. He looks like the guy who led the Sox to the World Series back in 2007. He has evolved from a thrower who could overpower hitters to a true pitcher – a guy who can mix and match pitches and power to keep a hitter off balance. Just ask Eric Chavez, whose knees are still probably shaking from the curve ball he saw for a called third strike with two on to end the sixth inning Sunday night.

While Ellsbury and Beckett are bouncing back from subpar 2010 seasons, Bartolo Colon has got to be the clubhouse leader for AL Comeback Player of the Year. He didn’t pitch last season, and is now 8-6 with a 3.33 ERA. He underwent radical shoulder surgery in the offseason and is throwing harder at the age of 38 than he has in years. If the commissioner’s office doesn’t find anything untoward in that surgical procedure, you’ll see older pitches from all corners of the game lining up to get Bartolo Colon Surgery this winter.

The Yankees’ bullpen is scary. With the return of Rafael Soriano, they’ve got a trio of lights-out relievers waiting to shut down the final innings. As we saw Friday night, Soriano and David Robertson are the perfect one-two punch to deliver the ball to Hall of Famer in waiting Mariano Rivera.

Carl Crawford just might save his season after all. He hit Minnesota with a season-high .260 batting average and had a hit in nine of his last 10 plate appearances against the Yankees. He looks fully recovered from his earlier hamstring injury and is making things happen with his speed on the basepaths.

Marco Scutaro might be the most overlooked member of the 2011 Red Sox.

Last season, he wound up being the leadoff hitter for virtually the entire season because of Ellsbury’s rib injury. This year, he was bumped out of the starting shortstop position by Jed Lowrie. Sunday night, he had a four-hit night and triggered a ninth-inning rally off Rivera – the night before Lowrie returned from the DL.

With Lowrie’s return, and the addition of Mike Aviles, Scutaro will have to fight even harder for playing time. He has shown plenty of fight so far.

The Red Sox are in the heads of the Yankees’ top two pitchers. CC Sabathia is having a great season. He’s a Cy Young candidate. He’s 16-6, but four of his six losses have come against Boston.

In fact, he’s 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against Boston after giving up seven earned runs in six innings Saturday.

Rivera has now blown 14 saves against the Sox, by far the most against any team. The Angels and Orioles are tied for second with eight apiece.

If these teams face one another in October, it will be a series that lasts seven games. The Red Sox are a stunning 10-2 against New York this season and have won the season series with the Yankees for the first time since 2004. That said, these teams are incredibly close to one another. In the last 10 years, they have played 193 times. The Sox hold the edge by a slim 98-95 margin, winning the last game of that stretch in extra innings.


Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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