Series Preview: New York Yankees

Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

In Boston's final series of the year, they will have a hand in where New York places in the playoff race.

It's Boston's final series of the year, and while it means little to them (outside of potentially improving draft position further), there are still reasons to watch. Especially if you're hoping that New York ends up as the wild card, rather than the division winner.

If Boston beats the Yankees in this series, or, at least causes them to win one fewer game in their last three than the Orioles do against the Rays, then the Yanks will have one of the wild card spots, and be forced into the one-game wild card round that determines who plays in the American League Division Series. They've clinched a playoff spot, so if you're particularly anti-Yankees in your day-to-day thinking, I'm sorry to tell you that they're in, one way or another.

Game 1: CC Sabathia (192 IP, 4.4 K/BB, 122 ERA+) vs. Clay Buchholz (187-2/3 IP, 2.1 K/BB, 103 ERA+)

Game 2: Ivan Nova (170-1/3 IP, 2.7 K/BB, 83 ERA+) vs. Jon Lester (200-1/3 IP, 2.5 K/BB, 88 ERA+)

Game 3: Hiroki Kuroda (212-2/3 IP, 3.3 K/BB, 125 ERA+) vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka (43-1/3 IP, 2.1 K/BB, 57 ERA+)

*****

Sabathia hasn't been his normal self, but the fact he has a 122 ERA+ in a somewhat down year is a testament to just how great he's been during his peak. He'll be taking on Clay Buchholz, who is 3-2/3 innings away from setting a new career-high for innings as a professional. Buchholz has already set his major-league high, but in 2009, between the majors and minors, he tossed 191 frames. Not a bad place to be considering his early struggles.

Speaking of struggles, Ivan Nova has decent K/BB numbers, but his absurd homer rate -- 1.5 per nine -- has kept him from repeating his 2011 success. With the rest of the starters the Yankees have, it wouldn't be a stretch to think this is Nova's last start of 2012, regular season or otherwise. Lester's not going to reach even a league-average ERA+, but if he can finish with his season ERA under five -- it's currently 4.94 -- then we'll consider his late-surge something to build on. From an aesthetic perspective, anyway -- the nine quality starts in 12 attempts since the awful bottoming out against Toronto has been encouraging.

[Update 4:23 pm] Ivan Nova won't even make this scheduled start, as he has been pulled from the Yankees' rotation, in favor of David Phelps. The right-hander has thrown 94-1/3 innings in 2012, appearing in 32 games including 10 starts. He owns a 126 ERA+, and a 2.6 K/BB. The rookie has been lights out as a reliever, and closer to league-average as a starter. Not a bad trade-off considering how strong New York's bullpen can be, even sans Mariano Rivera.

Last up, it's Hiroki Kuroda against Daisuke Matsuzaka, in what is very likely the last start of Dice-K's Red Sox career. At the least, it's the final appearance of his current contract. He'll be taking on an arm that Boston craved this past off-season, but reportedly didn't have the financial flexibility to acquire him. Maybe this will work as an opportunity to scout a pitcher who will be a free agent once more this upcoming winter, when the Red Sox will still be in need of a middle-to-top-of-the-order arm in the rotation.

Boston's offense isn't going to do them any favors in this series, since the same faces are missing that have been for the last two-plus months. With Buchholz and Lester on the hill, Boston has a real good chance in tow of the three. Dice-K against the Yankees' offense? Well, who ever knows if that's going to be a gem or a disaster?

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