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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Yankees

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A look at the big four-game set coming up

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

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Pinstripe Alley

The Opponent in one sentence

At this point we know the Yankees and their scary lineup, deep bullpen and rotation with the potential to shut anyone down in any given turn.

Record

68-37

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 4, Yankees 5

Trend

Up. The Yankees have hit some hard times of late, but those are all relative and right now they are not in the midst of that kind of stretch. After dropping three of their first five games coming out of the break, the Yankees have taken care of business against the Royals and Orioles, winning four of their last five. They have a chance to make it five of six today against Baltimore.

Pitching Matchups

8/2: Brian Johnson vs. CC Sabathia, 7:10 PM ET

This was originally supposed to be a Sale Day and exactly how the Red Sox wanted to kick off this Yankees series, but then the ace was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday. Now, it’s a Brian Johnson day and things don’t feel quite as nice. Obviously, the lefty is not as good as Sale and the expectations aren’t close to the same level, but he has been very good in the rotation of late. In five starts since joining the group, he has yet to allow more than two runs in any given start and owns a 1.88 ERA over 24 innings. He’s walked a fine line to do so, to be fair, but his command has been good enough that the weak contact he’s allowing is sustainable. Johnson has made three relief appearances against New York this year and has tossed 4 23 scoreless innings on five strikeouts, a walk and two hits.

Sabathia is, of course, somewhat famously a Red Sox kryptonite, and his transformation over the last few years in general has been one of the more remarkable stories in baseball. The veteran certainly doesn’t pitch like he did in his prime, but his changes are working in 2018 with a 3.53 ERA, though both FIP (4.58) and DRA (5.12) don’t see that being legitimate. The key for Sabathia is keeping weak contact and limiting damage, because he only misses an average-at-best amount of bats and his walk and home runs are also about average. He did struggle in his last two outings before the All-Star break, but he allowed one a two runs against the Royals his last time out. He did only last 4 23 innings, however. The Red Sox did get to Sabathia for four runs in four innings earlier in the year, but in June he shut them down to the tune of one run in seven innings. Sabathia will throw a low-90s two-seam fastball along with a cutter, a slider and a changeup.

8/3: Rick Porcello vs. Luis Severino, 7:10 PM ET

This becomes a really big start for Porcello, as it’s safe to assume Johnson won’t go too deep into the first game. That’s not to say it’s guaranteed the lefty will get lit up, but rather acknowledging that he has yet to go at least six innings in a start and has generally been lifted in the fifth or after five. Boston will likely need Porcello to go deep, and while that’s usually a safe better with him he always has the potential to blow up and has been a rollercoaster of late. Over his last three starts, he has one in which he was lifted after two innings and eight runs allow, one with seven shutout innings and one with four runs in 5 23 innings. So, who knows what to expect. In April, Porcello tossed seven dominant, shutout innings against the Yankees, and then in May he allowed five runs in five innings.

It wasn’t too long ago that Severino was looked at as a potential Cy Young favorite in the American League. His season-long numbers are still great and the talent is very much still in that right arm, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction of late. Over his last four starts, the Yankees ace has tossed just 19 13 innings (fewer than five innings per start) with an 8.84 ERA. His 19/4 K/BB ratio is still solid, but he’s allowed seven homers and just a lot of general hard contact. The Red Sox will hope that trend continues on Friday. Boston scored five runs in five innings off Severino back in April, then just two in six innings in May before getting shutout over 6 23 innings to start July. Severino throws a 98 mph fastball, a sick slider as well as a changeup.

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

8/4: Nathan Eovaldi vs. J.A. Happ, 4:05 PM ET

Eovaldi has a hell of a matchup for his second start in a Red Sox uniform, facing the Yankees in what is sure to be a massive game, either to keep the surging Yankees at bay in the standings or to push them further out of it. A former Yankee himself, the righty is a different pitcher than he was in those days and he showed off just how good he can be in a dominant Red Sox debut. We can’t expect him to do that every time out, but Eovaldi’s ability to pound the zone as well as his impressive new splitter make him a tough matchup for anyone when he’s on. He did face the Yankees earlier in the year and allowed five runs over 7 13 innings.

The Red Sox are using their newly acquired starter on Saturday, and the Yankees are countering with their own. At least, that’s the plan. Happ was recently sent away from the team with hand foot and mouth disease, but they still expect him to suit up on Saturday. The lefty and former Blue Jay has been fine on the whole this year, with good runs and bad runs. His first start with the Yankees went extremely well, holding Kansas City to one run over six innings. Boston has seen Happ twice this year, being held to one run over seven innings in April before scoring five (unearned) runs against Happ in just 3 23 innings a couple weeks back. Happ throws a pair of low-90s fastballs as well as a changeup and a slider.

8/5: David Price vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 8:00 PM ET

Price has been pretty good of late and generally speaking has been good much more often than he’s been bad this year. None of that matters one iota if he has another bad outing on Sunday. This is perhaps his biggest start of the year, and the team needs him to step up in a series in which they’ll also be without Chris Sale. Price has famously been blown up by the Yankees throughout his Red Sox career, and at this point it’s hard to believe there’s not some mental block in these games. The good news is that it takes just one good appearance in these situations to turn things around. He’s thrown just 4 13 innings over two starts against the Yankees this year and has allowed 12 runs in that time. Time to turn it around.

Tanaka always has the potential to shut down any given lineup on any given day, though his numbers on the year are surprisingly pedestrian. He is striking out more than a batter per inning and is walking only two per nine innings, but a home run issue has led to a 4.09 ERA, a 4.61 FIP and a 4.02 DRA. This won’t be an easy night for Boston hitters by any means, but if they can take advantage of any pitches the Yankees righty leaves up in the zone, they should be able to do damage. The Red Sox scored six runs in five innings against Tanaka back in April before managing four in 5 13 inning in May. Tanaka will feature a low-to-mid-90s fastball as well as a slider and a splitter.

Old Friends

We know the Jacoby Ellsbury story by now. He was a top prospect for the Red Sox, came up to play a minor role on the 2007 World Series team, put forth an MVP-caliber season in 2011 (it’s a crime he didn’t win), was a major piece on the 2013 championship squad then left for the Yankees. His career has fallen off since then, to put it extremely mildly.

Notable Position Players

Giancarlo Stanton is still an incredibly fearsome hitter and while he’s liable to strike out a ton he’s also liable for loud and terrifying contact each and every time out. He’s also been drawing a lot more walks of late, though injuries to teammates may play into that.

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Didi Gregorius has been hot and cold this year, but over the last month or so he has been very good and is someone to watch every time he’s up. He’s always liable to put the ball in play, and he’s shown off impressive power since joining the Yankees.

Gleyber Torres is the X-Factor on this Yankees team and sure looks the part of a future star in pinstripes. The infielder recently came back from injury and has struggled in the power department since his return, but the talent is there for him to take over any game.

Aaron Hicks is one of the most underrated outfielders in the game in my eyes, as he’ll hit for power, play defense and draw more walks than just about anyone else in baseball.

Miguel Andujar has opened some eyes with his rookie performance and he has a powerful swing that can do serious damage.

Brett Gardner is doing what Brett Gardner does, which is to say he’s being a pest atop the Yankees lineup, getting on base and not hitting for too much power.

Greg Bird is another guy who will strike out plenty, but he also draws walks and has big power from the left side.

Neil Walker has been a massive disappointment for the Yankees this year as his power stroke has completely disappeared.

Austin Romine is catching for the Yankees right now and he’s shown a surprising amount of pop this year and has been above-average at the plate.

Bullpen Snapshot

Aroldis Chapman is still the Yankees closer and is still going to strike out seemingly everyone he faces. That said, the Red Sox have had success here before and Chapman has struggled a bit with control of late.

Dellin Betances, David Roberton and Chad Green are the three-headed set-up monster from the right side for the Yankees, though only Betances has been throwing well of late.

Zach Britton has made two appearances since joining the Yankees, one of which was very good, the other not so much.

Injuries

Ellsbury hasn’t played all year due to a bunch of different injuries and it’s very doubtful he’ll be back at any point in 2018.

Aaron Judge was hit by a pitch late last week and that resulted in a fractured wrist. As a result, he’ll be down for at least three weeks, and as we know these are the kinds of injuries that can linger.

Gary Sanchez has missed a bunch of time with a groin injury and is currently in the midst of his second DL stint because of the ailment. He’s not expected back until late August or early September.

Clint Frazier has had some tough luck in recent years and just recently suffered a setback from the head injuries he’s previously dealt with. There’s no timetable for his return.

Jordan Montgomery underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in the year and will miss the rest of the season.

Ben Heller also underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season.

Weather Forecast

It looks like it should be a very nice weekend at Fenway, though it won’t be perfect. There are thunderstorms in the area and they could have an effect on Friday and/or Saturday. I don’t expect cancellations, though.