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Red Sox at Yankees Series Preview

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A look ahead to the weekend’s series in New York

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Pinstripe Alley

The opponent in one sentence

The Yankees still find themselves atop the wildcard standing but that lead is becoming more and more tenuous as they are coming off a rough series and some other contenders are starting to surge.

Record

70-62 (5.5 behind Red Sox)

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 7, Yankees 8

Trend

Down. Heading into their last series against the Indians, things were trending upwards as New York had won two straight series after dropping one in Boston. Cleveland took care of them, though, sweeping the Yankees in three games including a doubleheader on Wednesday. Overall, they’ve won only four of their last ten games.

Pitching Matchups

8/31: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. C.C. Sabathia, 7:05 PM ET

It’s been a bit of a rough stretch for Rodriguez, who has allowed three, four and five runs respectively over his last three outings. Consistency has been an issue for him all year long, and really throughout his career. At this point in the year, solving that issue doesn’t appear to be overly realistic. The key is simply getting him at his best for October, though that is obviously easier said than done. The good news is he’s only made one start against the Yankees this year and he was great, tossing six scoreless innings on August 11, allowing only two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

In terms of pure run prevention, this has been Sabathia’s best season since 2012. It’s been coming on the back of weak contact more than overpowering stuff, as his strikeout rate is lower than it’s been since the start of his career in 2003. The Red Sox know all too well how much better the lefty has been this year, as he’s dominated Boston in 2017. In three starts against the Red Sox this year he has tossed twenty innings and has only allowed two runs on 11 hits, six walks and 12 strikeouts. These days, the former Cy Young winner tosses a low-90s two-seamer to go with a cutter, a slider and a changeup.

9/1: Doug Fister vs. Sonny Gray, 7:00 PM ET

Fister has been such an enormous boost for the Red Sox since David Price went down, and has come through with solid turns through the rotation in all but one start since July 31. It was somewhat quietly been the biggest surprise on the team on the second half, and whether or not he can do it in September could lead to some interesting rotation questions come playoff time. There’s still a lot that can happen between now and then, though, and he has to perform before we can as the previously unthinkable. The righty has made only one appearance against the Yankees this year and it came out of the bullpen in mid-July. He allowed three runs on four hits, two walks and one strikeout in 2 23 innings.

Since coming to New York at the trade deadline, the former A’s ace has been incredibly solid near the top of the Yankees’ rotation. He’s made five starts in pinstripes and has yet to allow more than two earned runs and has only failed to make it through at least six innings once. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up since the deal, but his command has been a bit better and he’s allowing a ton of weak contact. The last time these two teams met Gray allowed two runs against the Red Sox in five innings on seven hits and two walks. He didn’t record a strikeout. Gray throws both a four- and two-seam fastball, both in the low-to-mid-90s, and pairs that with a slider and a curveball.

9/2: Drew Pomeranz vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 1:05 PM ET

Pomeranz just continues to roll through the season, despite some worries that he is going to fatigue down the stretch as he did last year. It’s a fair concern, and we’re not at all out of the woods just yet. He’s now 28 innings behind his career-high and should reach that point by the end of the month. So far, though, there have been zero signs of tiring and it’s unfair to put these concerns on him until he actually gives us a reason to worry. The Red Sox will certainly keep an eye on his workload heading into October, though, and will likely try to get him some rest down the stretch if possible. Pomeranz has made four starts against New York this year and has allowed nine runs (eight earned) over 21 innings (3.86 ERA) with 23 strikeouts and seven walks.

This has been a rough year for Tanaka with big ups and downs as he tries to decide whether or not he’ll opt out of his contract heading into this winter. His ERA is way up at 4.69 and his FIP has taken a jump because of a big home run spike, but he’s also striking out way more batters than ever and only saw a slight increase in walks. This has led to a DRA that’s mostly consistent with the rest of his career. Furthermore, he has an ERA under 3.00 in his last eleven starts dating back to late-June. What I’m saying is don’t underestimate Tanaka based on his ERA. In three starts against the Red Sox this year the righty has allowed eight runs in 21 23 innings on 14 strikeouts and just one walk. This includes a dominant complete game shutout back in April. Tanaka features a low-90s sinker to go with a slider and a splitter.

9/3: Chris Sale vs. Luis Severino, 7:30 PM ET

Sunday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. It is also the premier pitching matchup of this series, and for some reason is a 7:30 start on Sunday Night Baseball. I’m not entirely sure why, but I also haven’t researched it and will not complain about a slightly earlier start. Anyway, Sale is amazing, and showed that this is still the case after getting roughed up by the Indians prior to his last dominant start in Toronto. Over four starts against the Yankees Sale has allowed eight runs (seven earned) over 29 23 innings with 44 strikeouts and five walks.

Severino has emerged as the clear Yankees ace and has somehow found a way to be an underrated Yankees ace. For all of the talk about Sale and Corey Kluber for the American League Cy Young — not that it’s undeserved for those two, of course — Severino is putting up an awards-worthy year as well. He’s behind those two, but it’s not by as much as one may think. The young righty has a 3.14 ERA over 26 starts with over ten strikeouts per nine innings. He’s made three starts against the Red Sox this year and has been fantastic in two but was roughed up the last time they met on August 12. Severino features a big fastball averaging 97 mph to go along with a changeup and a slider.

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Old Friends

Jacoby Ellsbury is the only old friend on the Yankees roster, though things have not been great for the former Red Sox star outfielder. He’s still playing quite a bit thanks to injuries and stubbornness, but New York tries to sit him against lefties at least and should thus be riding the pine for much of this series.

Notable Hitters

Note: This is mostly copied and pasted from the last Series Preview between these two teams, as not much has changed in the last couple weeks. Starlin Castro and Greg Bird were added as they recently returned from injury.

Aaron Judge was obviously the biggest story in the league over the first half of the season, but he’s slowed down in a big way since the All-Star break. While he’s still walking a ton, the home runs aren’t coming nearly as frequently and he’s striking out in seemingly every other at bat. Still, the bat is obviously scary and we all know he can put a charge into any baseball that is thrown in his direction.

Gary Sanchez has been overshadowed by Judge all year, but he’s a terrifying hitter in his own right. The Yankees catcher has put up huge power numbers all year, including the second half, but he’s displayed some poor plate discipline of late that has hindered his overall production.

Brett Gardner has quietly been very good in the Yankees outfield this year, showing off surprising pop while maintaining the contact ability that has made him so solid throughout his career.

Aaron Hicks has been a big bright spot for the Yankees when healthy this year, as the Red Sox have seen first hand, but August has been rough as his pitch selection and quality of contact have taken a step back.

Didi Gregorius has been carrying the Yankees offense in the second half with great contact skills and surprising power. He is extremely aggressive at the plate, so he can be taken advantage of, though it’s been easier said than done of late.

Todd Frazier was the assumed Red Sox trade deadline target but ended up in New York. He’s been okay with New York thanks to extreme patience and more success on batted balls than he’s seen since 2014.

Greg Bird just recently came back to the Yankees lineup after missing the majority of the season with a foot injury. He’s helping solidify the first base position for New York, though things have been rough in the early going in his return.

Cleveland Indians v New York Yankees - Game Two Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Starlin Castro also recently came back from injury, though it was less long-term. Thanks to solid contact skills and decent pop, he’s been a strong bat in New York’s lineup and was sorely missed while he was out.

Bullpen Snapshot

In the midst of these two teams’ last series, the Yankees removed Aroldis Chapman from their closer role after Rafael Devers took him deep. It was awesome. Now, Dellin Betances is their main closer. The righty does lose control at times, but more often than not he’s among the very elite relievers in all of baseball, even if the Yankees don’t want to pay him what he’s worth.

Behind him is David Robertson, who has been spectacular since coming to New York. Tommy Kahnle hasn’t been quite as impressive since coming to New York from Chicago, but the stuff is still there and as long as he can stay in the strike zone he’ll be a big boost late in games. From the left side, Chapman will still get some late-inning chances, though he’s still struggling mightily with his command.

Injuries

Clint Frazier has made a great first impression for the Yankees since coming up the majors, but he was just placed on the 10-day disabled list at the start of the month with an oblique strain. It’s unclear right now how much time he’ll miss, and he’s yet to swing a bat since the injury.

Matt Holliday had been struggling in the second half, and things got worse when he was placed on the 10-day disabled list in early-August with a back injury. He could be back at some point in this series.

Michael Pineda received a huge blow in July, going down with an elbow injury and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery. He’ll obviously miss the rest of the year, and likely most of 2018.

Garrett Cooper has served as one of many depth options that is the revolving door at New York’s first base position. He was placed on the disabled list earlier this month with a hamstring injury.

Luis Cessa has been a spot starter for New York this year, but he was placed on the disabled list with a rib injury this month.

Weather Forecast

It might be a spotty weekend in New York, but right now it looks like the games should be played. On Thursday, there is rain in the forecast earlier in the day but it appears it should clear up before first pitch. Friday shouldn’t be an issue, but Saturday could be trouble. Right now, they are calling for on-and-off showers throughout the day, and while it doesn’t look like it will be enough to cancel the game it could make conditions uncomfortable. It should all clear up by the time Sunday night’s finale rolls around.

Other Notes

  • The calendar flips to September during this series, so these rosters will look different by the time the series is over.
  • The Yankees are still waiting to hear about the appeals to their suspensions after a day full of brawls with the Tigers. Most notably, both of their catchers (Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine) could miss time. Unfortunately for Boston, it looks like the appeals may not be hear until after the series. We’ll see.
  • The Red Sox will be getting some reinforcements beyond just normal September call-ups in this series. Matt Barnes is expected to return to the bullpen on Friday and Jackie Bradley should be back in the outfield on Saturday. Dustin Pedroia could also be back for this series, but that isn’t definite at this point.