SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Yankees have been one of the very best teams in baseball all year, but the top-heavy American League means they are settling for a Wildcard spot, and are still in a battle for home field in that game.
Red Sox 8, Yankees 5
Down. The Yankees haven’t been playing their best baseball of late at the most important time of the year. Of course, injuries to Aaron Judge and Aroldis Chapman haven’t helped matters — and both should be back in full action soon — but they have to deal with what they have. New York has lost two consecutive series to the Blue Jays and Twins, and going all the way back to August 27 they have won just one of six series with one split mixed in as well.
9/18: Nathan Eovaldi vs. J.A. Happ,
1:05 PM ET 7:05 PM ET
You have to wonder if this is going to be the last start Eovaldi makes this year, as the plan is for him to throw out of the bullpen in the postseason and you’d think they’d like to get him some time in that role before October begins. Regardless of his role on any given day, the Red Sox would like to see a good outing for Eovaldi, who has mostly struggled of late. He’s been inefficient with his consistency and command, and isn’t getting the swings and misses you’d expect to see from someone with his stuff. The good news is that his last great outing came against this same Yankees team, when he tossed eight shutout innings in that big sweep back in the beginning of August. The Red Sox don’t need another start like that from Eovaldi in this game, though no one will complain if they get it.
On the other end of this battle of trade deadline acquisitions is Happ, who has an interesting dichotomy between his time in Toronto and time in New York. The results have been, undoubtedly, better with the Yankees. His ERA since the trade is 2.70 compared to a 4.18 mark before the deal was struck. On the other hand, thanks to a drop in strikeouts and a slight increase in homers, his FIP has risen to 4.46 from 3.86. Meanwhile, his DRA has stayed just about the same, decreasing by just 0.06 points. So, your view of how he’s pitched before and after the trade is up to you. Of course, one of the speculated reasons for acquiring Happ was his performances in the past against the Red Sox, and he’s allowed just one earned run across two starts versus Boston this season. That’s a big misleading, however, as the last time they faced him Happ allowed an error to snowball into a big five-run inning. He technically wasn’t charged with an earned run there, but he wasn’t blameless. Happ will feature a pair of low-90s fastballs, a slider and a changeup.
9/19: David Price vs. Luis Severino, 7:05 PM ET
David Price knows he’s not going to ultimately be judged by his regular season performances, but damn he deserves credit for what he’s done in this second half. The southpaw has been nothing short of incredible, and over his last nine starts he has a 1.56 ERA along with 60 strikeouts to just nine walks over 57 2⁄3 innings. Hitters have managed an OPS of just .494 in that span as well. In the midst of this run was a big start in the aforementioned Yankees sweep when he allowed two runs over six innings. Price has obviously had his issues with New York since coming to Boston, and he started getting over that back in August. Now, he has a chance to keep that trend up in New York, possibly with a chance to clinch the division. He’s already proven himself plenty this year, but a big start here wouldn’t hurt his reputation, nor his confidence heading into October.
In the first half of this season, Severino was looking just about ready to join the elite tier of starting pitchers in this league, if he hadn’t joined it already. He followed up an eye-opening 2017 with an incredible start to this season, and slowing down didn’t look to be an option. Well, he’s slowed down in a big way in the second half. Over his last ten starts, including one start against the Red Sox in which he allowed four runs in 5 2⁄3 innings, the righty has pitched to an ugly 6.35 ERA. His strikeout and walk numbers are still solid, but he’s allowing a ton of hard contact. Some of that is likely bad luck, but the extent to and consistency with which he is getting rocked is too much for it to be all luck. It seems the issue has been his slider, once an elite pitch that has not been the same of late. It is worth mentioning that Severino allowed just one run his last time out and that he’s been a bit better (though still far from great) over the last 30 days or so. The righty will feature a blazing high-90s fastball along with that slider and a changeup.
9/20: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:05 PM ET
Rodriguez has now made three starts since returning from the disabled list and has looked very good in two of them, but the one bad outing was also the one start against a playoff team. He has a chance to gain some confidence by carrying some success over against a good lineup in a tough park for pitchers. We know that, when Rodriguez is at his best, he can shut down any lineup, but he also can struggle when he’s not attacking at full capacity. I wrote earlier this week that Rodriguez could be the X-Factor in the postseason, and this start could show why on either end of the spectrum. We can’t make too much out of any one start, but we will undoubtedly use this start as a barometer of what to expect from the lefty in October whether it’s fair or not. Rodriguez has two starts against New York this year, one in which he tossed five shutout innings on one hit and the other in which he allowed five runs in six innings.
At this point, Tanaka seems to be the clear frontrunner to start the Wildcard Game for the Yankees. He’s been outstanding of late, and he’s really been solid all year. The righty has pitched to a 3.47 ERA this year (127 ERA+) with a 3.96 FIP and a 3.76 DRA. Despite a solid ground ball rate, Tanaka is prone to the long ball from time to time, but as long as he’s keeping the ball in the yard he is very, very tough to beat. Tanaka has been really great over his last ten starts, pitching to a 2.09 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning while allowing an OPS of .640. In September, he’s allowed just one run over three starts. The good news is Boston has some success against the righty this year, posting a 1.002 OPS over three starts with Tanaka posting a 6.60 ERA in those outings. He will feature a a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a splitter and a slider.
Jacoby Ellsbury is the lone old friend on this Yankees roster, and it’s been another lost year for the former Red Sox star. He’s missed the entire season with a variety of injuries, and it’s really questionable if he’ll every suit up in pinstripes again.
Notable Position Players
Giancarlo Stanton hasn’t really been a disappointment for the Yankees this year, but he hasn’t been otherworldly like he has the potential to be. That’s continued in the second half, where he’s been merely good. Stanton is what he is, which is a guy who is liable to hit one 600 feet every time he comes up, but also is liable to whiff on three straight pitches.
Andrew McCutchen has been in New York for just a couple weeks after coming over in an August trade, but he’s starting to look like his prime self again. He’s hitting for a ton of power, drawing a ton of walks and keeping his strikeout rate in check. Also, because he’s with the Yankees he had to shave and I hate it a lot.
Miguel Andujar is arguably the favorite for Rookie of the Year right now, and he’s been red hot in the second half. He’ll make some mistakes in the field and won’t walk much at all, but his bat-to-ball skills are excellent and his power is totally legit.
Gleyber Torres has been a bit more inconsistent in his rookie year, though overall it’s still been a successful season. The inconsistency has carried over to the second half, and he’s not really showing the power that he’s capable of in this stretch.
Didi Gregorius spent some time on the shelf this year, but when he’s been healthy he continues to look like one of the most underrated shortstops in the game. He hits for power, has strong plate discipline and fields his position very well.
Aaron Hicks is another Yankee who seemingly finds himself underrated somehow. A great defender in center field, Hicks also has solid power (though it hasn’t been consistent in the second half) as well as being one of the best in the league in drawing walks and getting on base. He has a .384 OBP in the second half despite an average of just .232.
Gary Sanchez has been one of the most disappointing hitters in baseball this year, and while he certainly still has the potential to go off at any point, the catcher just isn’t making the kind of contact he has in the past, and he’s also frustrating fans with his defense.
Luke Voit has been the shocking hero for the Yankees in the second half and has taken over for Greg Bird as the primary first baseman. He’s hitting for enough power to make up for his strikeout rate, and he’s always coming through in big spots.
Brett Gardner just isn’t his old self anymore, and he’s rarely hitting the ball with authority and not making enough contact to make up for it.
Aaron Judge has been activated from the disabled list, but he’s not hitting yet. Instead, he’s being used as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, though that could change even as soon as some point in this series.
Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Zach Britton are all combining to cover the late innings in different orders while Aroldis Chapman is on the disabled list. Dellin Betances has been the most trustworthy arm of late, but all three have shown flashes of brilliance this year while also having spells of terrible outings. The talent is clearly there, but patience seems to work against this Yankees bullpen, who struggles with command plenty relative to their reputation.
Ellsbury, as I mentioned, is out for the year.
Aroldis Chapman is working his way back from a knee injury, but he threw a simulated game on Monday and things reportedly went well. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see him activated at some point this week.
Clint Frazier has had a tough year and has been battling with concussion issues. He’s had a number of setbacks, and the latest at the end of August was enough for the Yankees to shut him down and look towards 2019.
Jordan Montgomery went down with an elbow injury in the first half and eventually had to be shut down and undergo Tommy John surgery. He’ll obviously be out for the rest of this year, and he’ll miss at least half of the 2019 season.
Ben Heller underwent Tommy John surgery as well and hasn’t been able to pitch in 2018.
The remnants of Hurricane Florence are currently over New York, putting the Tuesday afternoon game into question. The Red Sox and Yankees are still hoping to get this game in, though if they do it will certainly be affected by delays. It’s also possible they just cut their losses and play a doubleheader on Wednesday. Weather did indeed get in the way. Tuesday’s game has been pushed back to a night game.The good news is Wednesday and Thursday look clear.