The Opponent in one sentence
The Yankees were viewed as one of the elite teams in baseball heading into the year, and they are deep and talented all over the roster despite a start in which they haven’t really hit their stride.
Down. The Yankees are coming off a pretty rough series against the Orioles, losing three of four to Baltimore. To be fair, two of those three losses came in extra innings and a break or two here or there changes the outcome of that series pretty drastically. Still, their big sluggers aren’t hitting up to their full potential and their bullpen has been surprisingly shaky given all the talent back there. Hopefully, the Red Sox can take advantage of a Yankees team that is scuffling relative to their preseason expectations.
4/10: Chris Sale vs. Luis Severino, 7:00 PM ET
By the numbers, Sale has been just about the same guy he was throughout his tremendous 2017 season. He’s withholding runs, pitching to a 0.82 ERA, and he’s missing bats with 15 strikeouts in 11 innings. One major difference is that he hasn’t been going deep into games, but that’s not really his fault. It’s Alex Cora’s strategy. That being said, it does seem like he’s a little off and that he’s benefited more than anyone from the weak competition. It’s not that he’s been bad, but the expectations are so high that any sign of mortality is noticeable. In his first two starts, his fastball command has been a bit off and the velocity hasn’t been as consistent. It’s entirely possible that the latter part was on purpose, though. Hopefully he can tighten things up and put forth a vintage Sale performance against the team’s biggest rivals.
This first game is a battle of aces, with Sale taking on a young pitcher who looks like he could possibly be on the road to be mentioned among the top tier of pitchers like Sale. Severino was legitimately in that tier for 2017, and while it remains to be seen if he can repeat that performance, the talent is there. The Yankees righty is the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball, and last year he struck out almost 11 batters per nine innings with an ERA below 3.00. He’s also been lights out to start 2018 with just two runs allowed over 13 innings with 14 strikeouts and four walks. Severino posted a 3.33 ERA in four starts against Boston last year and is a mostly fastball/slider pitcher — and his fastball averages 98 mph — but he’ll throw his changeup enough to keep hitters off-balance.
4/11: David Price vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:10 PM ET
The main event comes on Tuesday, but the pitching matchup for Wednesday is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Price has been unbelievable to start this season, and while he has also benefitted from the weak schedule he looks more like his peak self than Sale has so far. That’s not to say I’d take Price over Sale moving forward or anything, but just that Price looks amazing. He’s yet to allow a run over 14 innings of work, and his command has been spot-on in both starts. It seriously looks like he’s going to be the guy he promised he’d be leading up to this season.
Tanaka is weirdly underrated for a Yankees pitcher that was signed to such a high-profile deal. The righty had a chance to opt-out this winter, but he decided to stick with his pinstripes as he’s had plenty of success with that franchise. He’s given up a couple of home runs this year which have skewed his numbers, but only to the point that he has a 2.92 ERA instead of something incredible. He’s been outstanding whichever way you look at it, allowing just four runs in 12 1⁄3 innings with 15 strikeouts and no (0) walks. Tanaka pitched to a 2.83 ERA over four starts against the Red Sox this year and features a low-90s fastball but leans more heavily on his splitter and slider.
4/12: Rick Porcello vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET
Porcello, for now, is the third member of any Big Three the Red Sox feature in their rotation, and he’s certainly had an encouraging start to his season. In an ideal world where everyone pitches to their full potential (and stays healthy, of course) he is probably the fourth or fifth best pitcher, but that speaks more to the potential in this rotation. The 2016 Cy Young award has been working with coaches and former players (Derek Lowe, most notably) to get his two-seam fastball back, and it appears to be paying off early on. In fact, through two starts, he looks awfully similar to his 2016 self with good-not-great strikeout numbers, phenomenal control and plenty of weak contact. Of course, he hasn’t had a test like the Yankees yet, and home runs are generally his biggest issue.
New York hasn’t officially announced a starter as of this writing (if it’s announced between now and when this publishes, I’m sorry), but it seems likely that Sonny Gray will get this start. The former Athletic would be on normal rest, and the Yankees would probably prefer to start someone like Luis Cessa against someone who isn’t their biggest division rival. Gray is an underratedly solid starter even if he’s never quite made good on the ace-potential he showed very early in his career. He can get into trouble when he loses control at times and his stuff isn’t overpowering, but he generally ends seasons with above-average, near-All-Star level numbers. Through two starts this year he’s been that similar solid but hittable guy, even if the ERA suggests more. Gray put up a 4.50 ERA against the Sox last year and features a low-to-mid-90s fastball and two breaking balls that can both get whiffs.
Jacoby Ellsbury is the lone old friend on this Yankees roster, though he’s on the shelf to start the year. Red Sox fans are used to Ellsbury being hurt, and that combined with the fact that he signed with the Yankees makes him an easy target in Boston. That said, when he was at his best he was my favorite Red Sox position player ever to watch. Come at me.
Notable Position Players
Giancarlo Stanton was the big addition to this lineup and brought their lineup from terrifying to “holy shit this is just stupid” levels. Stanton has struggled to start the year with a strikeout rate above 40 percent, and he’s even been booed multiple times by Yankee fans. Stanton is going to hit eventually, though. Let’s just hope he starts after this series.
Aaron Judge is in a weird spot where he’s probably not as good as he showed last year but the expectation of regression probably makes him a little underrated. The power is obviously incredible, and while he has a ton of swing and miss in his game he also draws a bunch of walks and low-key plays excellent defense in right field. He’s done all of those things early this year.
Gary Sanchez finishes off New York’s three-headed monster and has taken Buster Posey’s mantle as best offensive catcher in the game. He has big power and a better contact profile than you’d expect, but he’s gotten off to a horrendous start this year.
Didi Gregorius is the most forgotten man in this Yankees lineup, but he’s carried their offense to start 2018. The shortstop certainly takes advantage of Yankee Stadium’s dimensions, but he also has some legitimate pop, tremendous contact skills and provides value in the field.
Brett Gardner bridges the last great Yankees team to this one, and while he’s no longer in his prime he still gets on base plenty and provides value with his legs once he reaches.
Neil Walker was a cheap free agent acquisition that is underrated as an offensive player who doesn’t stand out in any one area but is good at just about everything.
Miguel Andujar is one of the top prospects in a deep farm system and he was recently called up, though he hasn’t had much of a chance to prove himself. In the minors he made a ton of contact and hit for solid power.
Aroldis Chapman is still the closer for New York, and while he struggled towards the end of 2017 he’s been his old self with the big fastball early in 2018. The key with Chapman is patience and not being intimidated by that fastball. As we’ve seen over the years, he has a tendency to lose control of all of his pitches all at once.
David Robertson has quietly been on of the steadiest relievers in the game over his entire career, and while he struggles with command here and there he’s never really had a bad season.
The Yankees have a deep group of talented, right-handed relievers for the middle-to-late innings even in addition to Robertson and Chapman (who is a lefty). Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green could all be great closers in this league and are elite, or at least near-elite, relievers.
Chasen Shreve is the top — and only — non-Chapman lefty in the Yankees bullpen and while he can rack up strikeouts he’s also vulnerable to periods of lost control, like others in this bullpen.
Ellsbury is on the disabled list, as mentioned previously, with an oblique injury, and he may have just suffered a hip injury while on the DL. Yikes.
C.C. Sabathia was just placed on the disabled list with a hip strain at the end of last week, and while he isn’t expected to miss much time he’ll obviously miss this series.
Aaron Hicks hit the DL with an intercostal strain right after the team’s first game of 2018, but he looks like he’ll be ready to come back for this series, which is not great news for the Red Sox.
Greg Bird had some big expectations as the first baseman for this team heading into the year, but he had to undergo ankle surgery at the end of spring training and he is expected to miss up to two months of the regular season.
Clint Frazier has been dealing with concussion issues all year, but he seems to be progressing well and could be nearly ready to start a rehab appearance.
Brandon Drury was just placed on the 10-day disabled list with migraines and blurry vision that he’s apparently dealt with before but has kept from teams.
Billy McKinney is a young outfielder who was supposed to help with the absences of Hicks and Frazier, but he ran into a wall in his first game and was placed on the DL with an AC sprain.
Ben Heller was hoping to play a role in New York’s bullpen but just recently underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season.
We’re still waiting for summer weather in the Northeast, but it should get progressively warmer as this series moves on. Tuesday doesn’t look great with rain all day. The good news is that it should clear up before first pitch. The bad news is it will be in the low-40s or high-30s. Wednesday will be the clearest day, though they’ll still be dealing with temperatures in the 40s. Thursday will be the warmest day, but like Tuesday they’ll be dealing with rain in the afternoon before game time.