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Red Sox vs. Yankees Series Preview

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A look at this weekend’s four-game series.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Pinstripe Alley

The Opponent in one sentence

The Yankees are the clear top team in the American League East and one of the clear favorites to win the World Series this year thanks in large part to a straight-up terrifying lineup.

Record

66-35

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 1, Yankees 6

Trend

Up. The Yankees haven’t been totally dominant of late and their pitching problems are starting to peek through more often these days. That said, their offense is still coming through and helping them pick up wins. New York has won two in a row, including a bananas win on Tuesday, and overall they’ve taken seven of their last nine games.

Pitching Matchups

7/25: Rick Porcello vs. Masahiro Tanaka, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello is, frankly, a mess right now. The Red Sox righty has been rough more often than not during this 2019 season, but this most recent stretch has come at a tough time with the bullpen working a ton. The good news, if there is any, is that the offense has seemingly come to play every time Porcello takes the mound with the team somehow winning each of his last three starts by a combined score of 37-20. Still, he has allowed at least four runs in each of his last five outings and at least five in four of those starts. Over his three July starts he’s allowed a total of five homers and at least eight hits in each game. This five-start stretch does, of course, include his disaster in London against these Yankees when he gave up six runs while recording just one out. In his other start against the Yankees this year Porcello allowed five runs over 4 23 innings. The expectations won’t be high for this game. He just needs to not lose the game in the first few innings.

If you’re looking for a positive here, it’s that the Red Sox offense has been good of late and is facing a guy in Tanaka who has been very uneven at times. In that aforementioned London game, the Yankees righty was on the mound for the other half of the first and allowed six runs while recording only two outs. Tanaka has been a bit better than Porcello since then, but that’s a low bar. He is coming off a game in which he allowed five runs and he has a 5.40 ERA in three July starts. Overall, Tanaka has a 4.00 ERA this season with a 4.36 FIP and a 4.42 DRA. That London game was the only time the Red Sox have seen him this season. Tanaka has leaned most heavily on his slider this season while also throwing a low-90s fastball and a splitter.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

7/26: Andrew Cashner vs. James Paxton, 7:10 PM ET

Nobody was expecting Cashner to be a savior for this Red Sox team when the team traded for him a couple weeks ago, but rather for him to just be a solid addition to the back of this rotation. So far, he has not been that. The righty has faced the Blue Jays and his former Orioles teammates in his two starts in a Red Sox uniform and he’s allowed a combined ten runs (nine earned) over 11 innings with four homers combined. Clearly, he’s going to need to be a lot sharper on Friday or this Yankees lineup will absolutely obliterate him. The good news is that he does have two quality starts against New York this season, though they did hit him hard way back in March in his first start of the season. Cashner said he was looking forward to this. We’ll see how he reacts when the game actually comes.

Paxton was the big addition to the Yankees rotation this past offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Mariners. The southpaw had been one of the better pitchers in the American League over the previous couple years, but he’s been inconsistent in 2019. There was some expected decline in his base stats with the move from Seattle to New York just because of the change in park. That has certainly been a factor and homers have hurt him, but he also hasn’t quite looked the same. Paxton is struggling with control and command and has pitched to a 4.20 ERA this year with a 3.92 FIP and a 4.85 DRA. He had been looking much better in July before allowing seven runs (four earned) in just 3 13 innings his last time out. The bad news for the Red Sox is that Paxton dominated them back in April with eight shutout innings with twelve strikeouts and no walks. The southpaw will feature a mid-90s fastball along with a cutter and a curveball.

7/27: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. CC Sabathia, 4:05 PM ET

For a lot of the year I have referred to David Price as the best and most consistent starter in this Red Sox rotation. Looking at the entire season that is probably still the case, but right now Rodriguez is the one pitching the best. Boston’s southpaw has always been an enigma, of course, and things can always shift on a dime. He looks legitimately strong right now, however, and most importantly is consistently going deep into games. It is worth mentioning that Rodriguez seems to be pitching to contact a bit more with and average of just over five strikeouts per start over his last six. He also has a 2.68 ERA in that span, though, and has pitched into the seventh inning in four of those outings. Rodriguez has faced the Yankees once this year, allowing two runs in London over 5 13 innings.

Sabathia is currently going through what will be his final season in the big leagues, a decision Red Sox players and fans will be happy with. Even far removed from his prime, the big Yankees lefty is almost always trouble for these Red Sox for whatever reason. To be fair, he’s basically always been at least a solid pitcher for the last handful of seasons, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Sabathia has a 4.50 ERA this season with a 5.81 FIP and a 6.67 DRA. His command has been rough almost all year and the southpaw is coming off a seven-run start his last time out. He did pitch well against the Red Sox earlier this year, allowing three runs in six innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. They need to do better than that this time around. Sabathia will feature a cutter, a slider, a sinker and a changeup.

7/28: Chris Sale vs. Domingo Germán, 7:05 PM ET

Knock on wood, but Sale finally seems to be trending in the right direction. Granted, his last two starts have come against the Blue Jays and a scuffling Rays lineup, but things are finally looking normal. After a brutal stretch, the staff ace has allowed two runs over his last two starts and twelve innings with 22 strikeouts and only five walks. Most importantly, he allowed just a total of six hits in that span, too. The key here is that Sale does not leave too many pitches over the heart of the plate to get smacked around for singles and doubles all day. This start will of course be the true test. Sale has seen the Yankees twice this year, allowing four runs in both outings with one lasting five innings and the other lasting six.

Germán has spent most of this season being one of, if not the, best starters in the Yankees rotation. They needed someone to step up after the Luis Severino injury and Germán has been that guy. That said, he has been a little shakier of late and is coming off his worst start of the season his last time out. That start came on Tuesday when he allowed eight runs to the Twins over just 3 23 innings while allowing four homers in the game. Remarkably given where we are in the season, the rough outing raised the righty’s ERA from 3.38 to 4.03. Homers are the key against Germán, as he can be hurt by the long ball when he’s scuffling. In their one matchup against the 26-year-old this year the Red Sox scored three runs but knocked him out after just 3 23 innings. Germán will feature a curveball, a fastball, a changeup and a sinker.

World Series - St Louis Cardinals v Boston Red Sox - Game Six Photo by Michael Ivins/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Old Friends

Jacoby Ellsbury is barely an old friend on the Yankees roster at this point, as he has been missing in action for a couple of years now. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart as a Red Sox fan and was as exciting as any player (including Mookie Betts) I can remember, but clearly letting him walk has worked out for the Red Sox.

Notable Position Players

Aaron Judge has missed a ton of time to injury this year, but he’s back now and every bit as scary as he was before he got hurt. Judge is just a spectacular player. Yes, he strikes out a lot. He also hits for massive power, draws a ton of walks and turns batted balls into hits at a rate as high as just about anyone else in the game.

DJ LeMahieu has been one of the best free agent signings from last winter. He’s leading the league in hitting with a .337 batting average while also hitting for solid power at the top of New York’s lineup.

Aaron Hicks is perhaps the most underrated player on this Yankees roster. He hits for power and gets on base while also playing a damn good center field.

Edwin Encarnación got off to a cold start after getting to the Yankees, but he’s hitting for power again. He also always kills the Red Sox, so this should be fun.

Didi Gregorius also got off to a cold start after returning from his long-term injury, but he’s been much better of late. The shortstop makes a ton of contact with good power.

Luke Voit has cooled off after a scorching start to his season, but he’s still a threat to go deep every time he gets to the plate.

Gleyber Torres is one of the better middle infielders in the game and is an all-around good player who succeeds in every facet of the game.

Brett Gardner has had a somewhat shocking year with a .217 Isolated Power. That’s wild even with the juiced balls.

Austin Romine is catching with Gary Sánchez having just been placed on the injured list. He’s struggled when he’s gotten to play this year.

Bullpen Snapshot

Aroldis Chapman is still the Yankees closer and is having one of his better years. As we all know from his long tenure in New York, the key for him is throwing strikes. If he’s hitting the zone, it’s tough to beat him.

Adam Ottavino is walking a ton of batters in a setup role this year, but it hasn’t really mattered because his stuff results in a ton of strikeouts and very few hard-hit balls.

Zack Britton has been inconsistent this year and has a low ERA that is ripe for regression given the lack of swing and miss in his game right now.

New York Yankees v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Tommy Kahnle is having a bounce back year with much better control, though he can still get hurt by the long ball.

Chad Green had to go down to the minors at one point this year, but he’s been stellar of late and is much, much better than his 5.53 ERA would indicate.

Injuries

Ellsbury might never play again at this point, which makes me sad.

Giancarlo Stanton has missed essentially the entire season and while the hope was that he’d be back in early August, that is looking more and more unlikely.

Gary Sánchez just hit the IL on Wednesday with a groin strain. There’s no exact timetable on the injury, though it’s not believed to be too serious.

Luis Severino has missed the entire season with lat and shoulder injuries. At this point, a late-August return is the best-case scenario for the Yankees ace.

Miguel Andújar underwent surgery for a torn labrum and is out for the entire season.

Dellin Betances has been out all year with injuries similar to those of Severino. They are hoping for a return in about three weeks.

Troy Tulowitzki was shut down indefinitely with a calf injury back in June and there haven’t been any updates since then.

Greg Bird is dealing with more foot issues and may miss the rest of the year.

Jordan Montgomery was recovering from Tommy John when he suffered a shoulder injury. He may be able to come back in September.

Cameron Maybin has been out for about a month with a calf injury, but he is currently rehabbing and could be back around the start of August.

Ben Heller was pulled from a rehab assignment with a forearm injury, but the belief is that it won’t be too serious.

Jonathan Loaisiga has been out since May and most likely won’t be able to make an impact in 2019.

Jake Barrett is out with an elbow injury and could be out the rest of the year.

Weather Forecast

It should be a nice weekend at Fenway with little chance of weather getting in the way for any of these games.