SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Yankees are really, really good.
Red Sox 2, Yankees 1
Up. Way up. The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball at the moment having won 15 of their last 16 games. It hasn’t come against a bunch of pushovers or anything either with their last three series coming against the Angels, Astros and Indians. They are on a roll.
5/8: Drew Pomeranz vs. Luis Severino, 7:05 PM ET
It’s been a rough go for Big Smooth in his first three starts of 2018, showing decreased velocity and shoddy command. His last outing against Kansas City got off to a horrible start and looked like it would continue his streak of very short starts, but Pomeranz did settle down some and make it through six innings of work. This is the real test, though. There is some hope that the lefty has just been working his way back into the grind of the season and that he’ll be fine once he works himself into a groove. Well, with three starts under his belt it’s time to start showing that, and there’s no better test than going up against this Yankees lineup.
While the Red Sox have a questionable starter on the bump for game one, the Yankees send out their ace. Severino emerged as one of the league’s top starters in 2017, and he’s using the early parts of 2018 to prove that last season’s performance was no fluke. He’s got a 2.11 ERA and he’s still striking out more than ten batters per nine innings. He’s coming off his best outing of the year, too, having thrown a complete game shutout in Houston. For what it’s worth, his worst start of 2018 came against this Red Sox lineup when they put five runs on the board over just five innings, so it’s not impossible that they’ll be able to get to him. Severino is the hardest throwing starter in the game with a fastball that consistently gets into the 97-99 range, and he also throws a slider and a changeup.
5/9: David Price vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:00 PM ET
This is a big start for Price, who the Red Sox could really use in top form if they are to reach their full potential. It was a dominant start of the season for the lefty, so we know he has it in him, but it just hasn’t been the same over his last few outings. The trouble started, of course, in his last outing against the Yankees when he lost feeling in his hand. He got a pass for that one — it’s tough to pitch when you can’t feel your throwing hand — but his last few starts have all been shaky at best and his command just hasn’t been there. This New York lineup will knock him around if he isn’t hitting the corners.
Tanaka is a strange pitcher who always seems to be putting up worse numbers than it seems he should be. The righty has a 4.39 ERA this year, but that’s mostly the result of a rough two-start stretch, outside of which he’s been very good in 2018. The good news is that the Red Sox were part of that two-start stretch. When they faced him in April they put six runs up on the board over five innings and they only struck out three times. When Tanaka is at his best his splitter is going good and batters just cannot lay off it, so look for that pitch in the early going and how Boston hitters react to it. Along with the splitter the throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a slider.
5/10: Rick Porcello vs. CC Sabathia, 7:05 PM ET
Chris Sale reminded us in his last start that he is still the best starter on the Red Sox roster, but Rick Porcello is making a strong case to be considered the second best. After a rough 2017 it was the popular opinion to believe that 2016 was a complete fluke and that he could never get back to that level. Well, seven starts into the year and his numbers are even better than they were in the Cy Young campaign. He’s striking out just about a batter per inning, he’s walking just one per nine innings and his ERA is just barely over 2.00. He did face the Yankees in that April series and tossed seven shutout innings with six strikeouts and no walks.
Sabathia is one of the very best pitchers of his generation and he hasn’t really missed a beat in his age-37 season. It’s tempting to this the wheels can fall off any time for someone his age — and I supposed technically they could — but Sabathia has adjusted to his age and is staying effective. The southpaw has an ERA under two to start this season thanks to impeccable command. He showed last year that he can handle the Red Sox, too, as he held them to an OPS under .500 over four starts last year. Of course, Boston has a different lineup this time around. Sabathia features a a low-90s sinker, a cutter, a slider and a changeup.
Jacoby Ellsbury is the lone old friend on this Yankees roster, and we’re at the point where neither side of the rivalry is very fond of him. Red Sox fans still don’t forgive him for leaving for New York in the first place, and Yankees fans aren’t thrilled that he’s been bad and/or injured for pretty much his entire tenure. I still love you Jacoby, so you can hang your hat on that.
Notable Position Players
There were some who thought Aaron Judge’s 2017 was ultimately a fluke, and while that may technically be true he’s a legit star either way. The swing and miss is still there, but he pairs that with an amazing high and a wild ability to make good contact with every swing. He’s the best hitter in this stacked lineup, and it’s not even really close. Oh, and he plays good defense too.
Giancarlo Stanton has still been disappointing in his first year in pinstripes, though it obviously hasn’t much mattered of late. The outfielder/DH is still hitting for power and drawing walks, but his strikeouts are way too high if he’s going to make the kind of impact they were hoping for.
Gary Sanchez has had a disappointing start to the year with a batting average below .200, but the power is still all the way there with an Isolated Power (SLG - AVG) over .300.
Didi Gregorius has been this year’s big breakout for the Yankees even after he was already pretty good heading into the season. The shortstop is showing off big-time power for the second straight year, and while most of it this year has come at home he proved last year that it’s not just a Yankee Stadium thing. Gregorius is legit.
Aaron Hicks missed some time this year with injury and his power is down a bit, but he’s still going to play great defense, draw a ton of walks and be a threat on the bases.
Brett Gardner has been awful this year with most of that coming on balls in play, both in terms of average and power. You have to wonder if it’s just a slump or if age is catching up to him.
Gleybar Torres was just promoted to the majors a couple weeks ago and the top prospect has been great. He’s a future star and we’re already seeing glimpses.
Miguel Andujar is another recent top prospect who has been up a bit longer than Torres. The third baseman is extremely aggressive but can do real damage when he gets ahold of one.
Neil Walker and Tyler Austin share duties at first base, and the latter will likely get two starts in this series with lefties on the mound. He, of course, is not the favorite Yankee among Red Sox fans right now. Overall, Austin has had a strong start to the season while Walker has been mostly disappointing.
Aroldis Chapman is still the top man in the Yankees bullpen and he’s been incredible this season, averaging two strikeouts per nine innings. We know he can lose command at times, and the Red Sox have to hope for that in this series.
David Robertson, Chad Green, Dellin Betances are going to handle the late innings from the right side for the Yankees, and they have one of the more talented groups in the game. They aren’t always consistent and haven’t been great for stretches this year, but they seem to be settling in at the worst time for the Red Sox.
Chasen Shreve is the top non-Chapman lefty in New York’s bullpen, and while he’s not on the level of the others on this list he is still quietly solid in his role.
Ellsbury is on the 60-day disabled list with oblique, foot and hip injuries, but he may be back around the end of this month.
Greg Bird has been out all year with a foot injury, but he’s ready to start getting into games on the complex and could start his official rehab appearances soon.
Jordan Montgomery suffered an elbow injury just last week and while the extent of it is not known yet he could miss up to two months of action.
Tommy Kahnle was supposed to be part of that Robertson/Green/Betances group but he struggled to start the year and was quickly hurt. He could be back soon, though it does’t seem like it’ll be for this series.
Adam Warren has been out since late-April with a back injury. His timeline is similar to that of Kahnle’s.
Brandon Drury was brought in this offseason via trades and has been out for some time with issues with migraines. It doesn’t seem like he should be kept out for too much longer.
Billy McKinney is a relatively exciting young outfielder who ran into a wall shortly after being called up to the majors early this year. He should be ready for a rehab assignment soon, but he’s likely headed back to the minors when he is healthy anyway.
Luis Cessa was part of New York’s bullpen but he’s been out since mid-April with an oblique injury.
Ben Heller is going to miss the whole season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April.
The Red Sox and Yankees shouldn’t have too much trouble with this series as it looks clear for most of the week. It will be a bit on the cooler side, though. Thursday is the one questionable game with some thunderstorms in the area, but it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.