Every year, there is a lot of buildup for the first Yankees/Red Sox matchup.  Whenever the two AL East powerhouses meet, excitement is sure to ensue—whether it’s a brawl, an extra-inning thriller or a pitching duel. 

These two teams have been dominant forces in the league for as long as anyone can remember—the Yankees, with their 27 World Series’ titles, and the Red Sox, constantly lurking in the shadow of their evil empire rival. 

The last time that neither team was in the playoffs was in 1993, when only two teams from each league were selected for postseason play.  Since then, after the creation of the divisional series in 1995 (there was no postseason in 1994), New York and Boston have been cruising into the playoffs year after year.

Throughout the ’90s, the Yankees were mostly the better team, winning three world championships.  But after the turn of the century, we began to see a stronger Red Sox team that showed they were ready to break the curse. 

The 2004 ALCS was one of the most memorable series for all sports fans. The Cardinals had no chance at stopping the Sox’s momentum in the World Series. 

Winning again in 2007, Boston establish itself as a force to be reckoned with under manager Terry Francona. 

It didn’t take long for the Yankees to counter, though.  In 2009, Hideki Matsui led New York to its 27th championship.

It was a nice break to see Texas as the American League’s representative last year, but both teams are revamped and ready to go this year.

Boston will see the return of veterans Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury—who all suffered injuries last year that hindered Boston’s offensive potential.  The Red Sox had a productive offseason as well, acquiring both speedster Carl Crawford and proven slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Since Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon left, David Ortiz has been struggling. But with Youkilis and Gonzalez preceding him, David Ortiz should return to old form. 

Undoubtedly, this lineup will provide some trouble for the Yankee bullpen.

But Jonathon Papelbon and the Red Sox pitching will not be at ease.  Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter lead off for the Yankees—two guys that you will see on base in the first inning a lot this year.  Following them are Teixeira and A-Rod, two All-Star sluggers.  And if they can’t get the job done, perhaps the best No. 5 hitter in baseball comes up, Robinson Cano

Cano finished with brilliant numbers last year: 29 HRs, 109 RBI, a .319 average and a .915 OPS.  His combination of average and power make him the perfect No. 5 hitter—dangerous in all situations.

This year is shaping up to be a close race between the Red Sox and Yankees. Personally, I think Boston is going win the division (that is, if the Rays and Jays stay quiet).  Of the 19 games played between these two, I foresee a 12-7 split in the Sox’s favor—mostly due to their maturing bullpen, supercharged hitting and young pitching.

Note: Keep Clay Bucholz in the Cy Young tracker.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com