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Red Sox at Yankees series preview

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A look ahead to the two-game set between two disappointing clubs.

Divisional Round - Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Pinstripe Alley

The Opponent in one sentence

If not for the Red Sox, the Yankees would at least be in the conversation (with the Cubs) for the most disappointing in this young season as injuries have piled up for New York.

Record

6-9

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 0, Yankees 0

Trend

Down. The Yankees are coming off an absolutely brutal week of baseball that immediately followed a sweep of the Orioles and an appearance that things were heading in the right direction. They caught the red-hot Astros at the wrong time, being swept in Houston before returning home and dropping three of four to the White Sox. They’ve actually only won one series thus far. Of course, that is one more series victory than the Red Sox have to their name in 2019.

Pitching Matchups

4/16: Chris Sale vs. James Paxton, 6:35 PM ET

Sale has had a bit of an extended break since his last start, as it will have been a full week between starts when he takes the mound on Tuesday night. Sale admitted earlier this week that this is the worst he has ever thrown a baseball, though those of us watching didn’t really need clarification on that. We did see some of the velocity start to come back for the Red Sox ace in his last outing against Toronto, but it certainly wasn’t all the way back. More concerning was that he still wasn’t getting anything close to the swings and misses we’re used to from him. It is obviously key to success for Sale, and it’s going to be vital in this game against the Yankees. Even with all of their injuries there are plenty of big, right-handed bats in this lineup and if Sale allows a lot of contact it’ll only be a matter of time until some of it is loud. Toronto beat him with a bunch of singles. The Yankees will make it more painful if they’re allowed.

Toronto Blue Jays v Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Paxton was the big addition to the Yankees rotation this winter, acquired in a trade with Seattle early in the offseason. The lefty has had trouble in the past compiling innings, but when on the mound he’s been extremely effective the last three years. The early season, however, has not been kind to the 30-year-old. The strikeouts have certainly been there, as he’s setting down nearly 12 batters per nine innings, but in between the Ks batters are drawing walks and hitting the ball well. Granted, there is undoubtedly plenty of bad luck in the .436 batting average on balls in play currently being allowed by Paxton, but you can’t explain it all away that way. He’s missing his mark a lot and according to Fangraphs 38 percent of the batted balls he’s allowed are hit hard. All of this is happening while he’s allowing more balls to be hit in the air than ever before. The Red Sox did get to Paxton when they saw him last year, scoring six runs in 2 13 innings. The southpaw, so far this year, has been featuring a mid-90s fastball, which he throws over 60 percent of the time along with a cutter and a curveball.

4/17: Nathan Eovaldi vs. J.A. Happ, 6:35 PM ET

Eovaldi’s command this season has been, to put it bluntly, dreadful. It hasn’t seemed like he has known where the ball is going in any of his starts to this point, and it’s resulting in walks and hard contact. That’s not a great combination! Through his first three starts he’s allowed at least one homer in each (and multiple in two of those three) while also walked at least four in each of the last two. He’s also, unsurprisingly, failed to make it beyond five innings in any start. We all know what Eovaldi’s stuff looks like when it’s at its best. It’s filthy. It also doesn’t matter if he can’t locate. Right now he’s falling behind too early, and then reverting to his four-seamer. While that pitch gets up to 99 mph consistently, it’s also mostly flat. If he misses in the zone with that — and he has too much this year — batters can crush it. Watch the catcher’s glove in this outing. If it’s moving a lot in the first inning, you might want to cover one eye.

Happ was acquired by the Yankees at the trade deadline last summer, in part (but by no means entirely) because he has killed the Red Sox in the past. They broke out of that funk in the second half last year, to be fair, though that long track record still looms, particularly with Boston struggling so much. The southpaw was a free agent this past winter, but New York decided to bring him back on a three-year deal. Very early on things are not looking great. Like Paxton, Happ has struggled mightily with command even with a strikeout rate in line with last season. The lefty has allowed four homers in just over 12 innings of work that had come between three outings. He also has year to record more than 13 outs in an outing. Last season the Red Sox scored 11 run (though only five were earned) over 22 23 innings against Happ with an OPS of just .564. That does not, however, include the five runs they scored in two innings against him in Game One of the ALDS. Happ’s fastball, being thrown 63 percent of the time so far in 2019, sits in the low-90s and he also throws a changeup and a slider.

Old Friends

Jacoby Ellsbury, as has been the case for almost his entire Yankees career, is currently on the disabled list. At this point he hardly feels a part of that team, though there is still some pretense that he will eventually take the field in pinstripes again. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Notable Position Players

Aaron Judge is, simply put, one of the very best players in baseball. He strikes out a ton, which is always going to be held against him, but he still manages to be a terrifying bat thanks to absurd power and a phenomenal understanding of the strike zone that leads to elite walk rates every year. He’s also an underrated fielder who moves much better than you’d expect just by looking at him.

Luke Voit certainly seemed like a flash in the pan last season when he surprisingly grabbed hold of the first base job for the Yankees, but he’s picking up where he left off. The batting average is ugly, but he’s still hitting for huge power and drawing a bunch of walks.

Gleyber Torres is a former elite prospect coming off a good rookie year and following it up with a strong start to the year. He doesn’t have the patience of the first two guys we talked about, but he will hit the ball very hard like them and has big power in a middle infield spot.

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

DJ LeMahieu was sort of a maligned signing for the Yankees this year as most expected Manny Machado, but the utility man has been huge for New York early in 2019. He’s walking just about as often as he strikes out and is riding a .442 BABIP to a 165 wRC+. Also I can spell his last name without looking it up now and you have no idea how proud that makes me.

Brett Gardner has had a rough start to his year, but it seems like the opposite of what’s happening with LeMahieu. Gardner’s plate discipline has been great and he’s hitting for more power than any single season of his career.

Clint Frazier has been worked into the lineup thanks to all of the injuries, and he has big power but is an aggressive batter who can be exposed with the right stuff.

Gio Urshela was never supposed to be anything more than a bench player, but he’s been forced into the starting lineup and has actually been productive in his first eight games.

Austin Romine is a divisive player among Yankee fans, but the catcher has been brutal to start this season and is now being forced into a more regular role with Gary Sanchez on the IL.

Bullpen Snapshot

Aroldis Chapman is, of course, still the Yankees closer. The Red Sox seemingly have always had a good approach against him, and while that hasn’t always led to success it makes fans feel a little better about seeing him in the ninth. Chapman still throws gas and you just have to hope you get him on a day where the location isn’t there.

Adam Ottavino is the new face in New York and a guy many Boston fans wanted to sign this past winter. The former Rockie is walking a ton of batters so far this year, but his stuff is so nasty that it hasn’t mattered.

Zack, formerly known as Zach, Britton is still getting a ton of ground balls for the Yankees which helps limit damage but his strikeout and walk numbers have been rough through seven appearances.

Chad Green has been the most underrated arm in this bullpen for years, but his 2019 has gotten off to a bad start. His strikeout rate is way down and he’s already allowed three homers in just seven appearances.

Injuries

*takes deep breath*

Ellsbury is out right now with hip and foot injuries. Like I said above, I don’t expect to see him back.

Giancarlo Stanton is on the shelf with a biceps injury, but he’s working his way back now. I don’t expect him back for this series, but he should return within the next couple weeks.

Gary Sanchez is the latest Yankee to hit the IL, being placed there at the end of last week with a calf injury. The Yankees don’t expect him to miss more than ten days.

Luis Severino was shut down right before the start of the season with a lat injury, and he suffered a setback recently that will ensure he won’t even start throwing until late-May at the earliest. It’s going to be awhile until New York gets their ace back.

Dellin Betances hurt his throwing shoulder, and he’s going to be out of the back-of-the-bullpen mix for New York for at least another six weeks or so.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miguel Andújar went down with a shoulder injury at the start of April and there was some fear he’d miss all of 2019. He’s trying to avoid that fate, though, and just started taking dry swings.

Didi Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery last October and is going to be out for at least half of the season.

Aaron Hicks is out with a back injury but it seems like he could be getting closer to a rehab stint.

Troy Tulowitzki is down with a calf strain, and while it doesn’t seem serious there doesn’t appear to be a timetable for his return.

Jordan Montgomery is out until at least mid-August after undergoing Tommy John last year and likely won’t be a real factor in their rotation again until 2020.

Ben Heller is also recovering from Tommy John and should be ready to go sometime around midseason.

Weather Forecast

It’s possible the Red Sox and Yankees see a bit of rain during each of these games, but neither appears to be in danger of being cancelled. The chances for a delay are probably even less than 50 percent.