SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Yankees had one of the best seasons in all of baseball but also had the unfortunate luck of playing in the same division as the Red Sox, putting them on track for a one-game playoff against the Athletics.
Red Sox 9, Yankees 7
Up. The Yankees aren’t quite on fire or anything like that, but they are definitely playing good baseball heading into October. They have won each of their last three series (including one against the Red Sox), and seven of their last ten overall.
9/28: Brian Johnson vs. J.A. Happ, 7:10 PM ET
The Red Sox shuffled around their rotation a bit heading into this final series of the year, and things will kick off with a guy who may not even be on the playoff roster, never mind in the rotation. Despite that, however, Johnson has been a part of how the team has made it to where it’s gone. The lefty has done everything that’s been asked of him in 2018, pitching solidly both out of the bullpen and as a starter. This will be the first time Johnson has made a start since the very beginning of the month, though he got rocked in that outing, allowing seven hits without making it out of the second inning. Johnson has made four appearances against the Yankees this year, though only one of them was a start. That came in the momentous sweep the begin August when he allowed five runs over five innings, but did strike out eleven.
When the Yankees traded for Happ at the trade deadline, it was widely believed that at least part of the reason was that the former Blue Jays southpaw has had so much success against Boston over his career. It’s hard to deny that being true, as the Red Sox getting to him has been a rarity. While all of that is true, Happ has done his best to prove he’s not only there to pitch well against the Red Sox. The lefty has pitched well in general since getting to New York, pitching to a 2.34 ERA since the trade, though his peripherals suggest he should be getting hit harder. He’s been particularly hot lately, allowing no more than one run in each of his four starts this month. Happ has faced the Red Sox three times this year, dominating them twice and getting hit around the other time. The latter, if you’ll recall, is when Mookie Betts had that incredible at bat that ended with a grand slam.
9/29: Nathan Eovladi vs. Lance Lynn, 1:05 PM ET
Eovaldi, against all odds, has seemingly locked up a playoff rotation spot, largely because of how he’s performed against the Yankees this year. The fact that he’s right-handed certainly plays a role as well, though again that ties back to potentially facing the Yankees in October. Since coming to Boston, the righty has faced the Yankees twice, tossing a combined 14 shutout innings. I don’t think there’s much he can do in this outing to talk Alex Cora out of putting him in the rotation, but just in terms of confidence both for himself and a lack of confidence for the Yankees, it’d be nice to see him shut down New York one more time on Saturday.
While the J.A. Happ acquisition has worked out nicely for New York, the same can’t be said about Lynn. Well, depending on what you look at. The former Twin and Cardinal has actually been the polar opposite of Happ, pitching to a pedestrian 4.21 ERA but posting an impressive 2.20 FIP behind a strikeout rate of ten per nine innings. To his credit, the righty has been getting much better results of late, allowing two or fewer runs in each of his last three outings. The Red Sox saw Lynn twice while he was still with Minnesota and struggled both times, combining to score just three runs (two earned) over 11 innings.
9/30: Rick Porcello vs. Luis Severino, 3:05 PM ET
Porcello was originally lined up to toss Friday’s series opener, but the Red Sox shuffled things around a bit to put him in the season finale. The righty is the team’s presumptive Game Three starter, and by giving him this Sunday start it not only gives him a couple extra days rest beforehand but also shortens the time he has to wait until that first postseason start. Porcello has been maddeningly up and down all year long, and over the final stretch of the season Cora has been holding him to about five innings per start. He is one of the biggest wildcards on the team, and while I’m not sure how much weight his performance start-to-start carries, it would still be nice to see him leave the 2018 regular season on a high note.
If I had told you in the beginning of the year that the Yankees were going to be locked into the Wildcard Game heading into this final series and also that Severino was going to be pitching in the finale, you would have called be a stupid face. Well, it’s happening! The hard-throwing Yankees righty has been a massive disappointment over the second half of the year after he looked like a legitimate Cy Young candidate for most of the early parts of the season. A lot of his troubles seemingly tied back to his slider usage, and the Yankees need him to get back on track. Fortunately for them, he’s allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last three starts. Hopefully, the Red Sox can send him into October on a sour note.
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
Aaron Judge is back at full strength after making his return to the plate last time these two teams faced off. He hasn’t really looked like himself in this small sample since his return with an OPS of just .640. He’s also yet to hit a home run. The Red Sox will look to keep him cold heading into the Wildcard Game.
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 incredible for the Yankees as a sparkplug since coming over in an August trade, and he was particularly important for them when they took two of three over Boston earlier this month. He’s been hitting everything and has posted a 157 wRC+ since donning pinstripes.
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. He is a little banged up, but he may be able to return for this series.
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.
Ellsbury, as I mentioned, is out for the year.
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 Red Sox should have no problems getting this weekend series in. If there is an issue it would be on Friday, as there is rain in the area that day. However, it appears most of that is earlier in the day and should clear out before the game starts Friday night.