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Red Sox vs. Giants Series Preview

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A look at the upcoming showdown between the two teams of the decade.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

McCovey Chronicles

The Opponent in one sentence

The Giants are at the start of a transition to a new era, and as a result find themselves out of the playoff mix after sticking around longer than most expected.

Record

72-78

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 0, Giants 0

Trend

Even. The Giants are basically treading water as they close out the year, which is about right given their record. They are, to be fair, coming off a series win down in Miami, but before that they dropped three of four to the Pirates. That one is particularly jarring considering how badly Pittsburgh just got beat by Chicago. But before that they took two of three from the Dodgers. It’s confusing.

Pitching Matchups

9/17: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Logan Webb, 7:10 PM E

Somewhat quietly, Eovaldi has been pretty solid of late for the Red Sox. He was awful in his return to the rotation in mid-August against the Orioles, but over four starts since then he’s turned things around with a 3.86 ERA. Now, he’s still not as stretched out as you’d like to see, averaging four innings per start, but the results are solid and the command has been better, if still far from perfect. It seems like people are looking at Eovaldi as something of a sunk cost for 2020 and beyond, though that could be me misreading public perception. Either way, there is at least something to build on here heading into the offseason and the goal now should be to get a couple of solid five-plus inning starts in before the end of this year.

Webb was a fourth round pick for the Giants back in 2014, and after a few years of struggling to get going he really put himself on the map with a big year at High-A in 2018. The 23-year-old righty has missed some time with injury this year, but he’s gotten himself to the majors, making his debut about a month ago. He now has five major-league starts under his belt, pitching to a 6.75 ERA over 22 23 innings. Things haven’t really been as bad as they seem, though, if his 4.02 FIP and 4.16 DRA are any indication. Webb’s peripherals are more solid than spectacular across the board, with his biggest issue in this small sample at the highest level being a .405 batting average on balls in play. In these five starts, Webb has most often leaned on a fastball that sits around 93 mph along with a slider, a changeup and a sinker.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

9/18: Jhoulys Chacín vs. Jeff Samardzija, 7:10 PM ET

We’ve talked for the last couple of weeks that every player has different things to play for down the stretch in a year where their team is not in playoff contention. For Chacín, this stretch run is an audition. It’s an audition for the league as a whole, but also for his current team. It’s no secret that the Red Sox will likely be looking for a cheap starter to fill out their rotation if/when Rick Porcello is not retained in free agency. Chacín would fit the cheap bill, and he’s trying to prove his worth here. The righty, to his credit, has done well in his first three appearances here. He’s up to 5 23 scoreless innings in those three appearances with seven strikeouts and three walks. Clearly, it’s more about what the stuff looks like than the results in such a small sample, but he’ll at least be in consideration depending on how much the team will want to invest in this position. Chacín actually has pitched against the Giants this year while he was with the Brewers, allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings.

Samardzija was seen as a potential trade candidate this summer, but then the Giants were a little too close to contention to feel comfortable really selling and they held on to their chips. The righty is not really a superstar, but he’s been a solid and somewhat underrated pitcher in his time with the Giants. He was awful in an injury-marred 2018, but other than that he’s been an essentially average pitcher who makes 32 starts a year and almost always hit the 200-inning mark. Even for a rebuilding team, there is value in a guy that reliable as long as they are not imploding. This season, the former Notre Dame wide receiver’s 3.72 ERA isn’t really supported by the peripherals, but even the advanced stats have him as average in 2019. Samardzija features a low-90s fastball along with a cutter, a sinker and a slider.

9/19: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Madison Bumgarner, 1:05 PM ET

Rodriguez chasing 20 wins is something I have become very strangely invested in given that, well, I haven’t cared about pitcher wins in at least a decade. While it is something we know doesn’t matter and whether he finishes with 17 or 20 wins, his season will be just as impressive. That said, it is clearly important to him on a personal level, not to mention a financial one given the archaic arbitration processes. If he’s going to get there, he needs to be perfect the rest of the way. The odds are against it, because not only does he need to pitch well but also because the offense and bullpen need to support him as well. It’s still within range, though, with this being the first of three more scheduled starts the rest of the way.

Like Samardzija, Bumgarner was supposed to be a trade chip this summer before the Giants overperformed for much of the first half. Now, he is simply one of the most interesting free agents coming up this winter. His reputation is obviously legendary, and for good reason. Not only is he one of the best postseason performers we’ve ever seen, but he was almost an underrated regular season pitcher in his prime. Although the lefty never won a Cy Young he did receive votes in four straight seasons and five out of six. At this point, though, because of age, mileage and injury, Bumgarner just isn’t the same guy. He’s still solid, granted, but he’s not missing as many bats and has just been much more consistently hittable. All told he’s still easily above-average, but he’s closer to that tier than the near-elite tier where he lived for a long, long time. Bumgarner features a low-90s fastball along with a cutter and a curveball.

Old Friends

Mauricio Dubon is, as most reading this likely already know, perhaps my favorite player in the game. Dubon was a prospect I followed extremely closely in his rise from anonymity to relevance. He was eventually sent to Milwaukee in the Tyler Thornburg deal before going to the Giants this summer in a trade that sent another old friend, Drew Pomeranz, to the Brewers. Dubon is now the everyday second baseman for the Giants.

Pablo Sandoval is, well, we know about Sandoval. He is in a discussion with Carl Crawford as the most disappointing Red Sox player in recent memory, not even finishing out his contract before being released. He went back home to San Francisco where he originally flourished and has been much better there. We won’t see him this week, though, as he’s out with injury.

Shaun Anderson was a third round pick for the Red Sox back in 2016, but he didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the organization. The righty was traded to the Giants in the summer of 2017 in exchange for Eduardo Núñez.

Fernando Abad is, indeed, still pitching in the majors. The lefty pitched parts of two years in 2016 and 2017 in the Red Sox bullpen and has made 15 appearances for the Giants this year.

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Notable Position Players

Mike Yastrzemski is the biggest story of this weekend showdown between the Giants and Red Sox, as he is of course the grandson of Boston legend Carl Yastrzemski. He is making his own name for himself now, though, as he’s finally getting a chance at the highest level. The Andover native is hitting for power en route to a 115 wRC+.

Buster Posey, like Bumgarner, is not the superstar he once was. At one time Posey was a certain future Hall of Famer, but the decline has been quicker than ever anticipated. This year, the catcher has done nothing at the plate beyond making contact. (I still think he’s a Hall of Famer, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Brandon Belt has always sort of seemed like he should be better than he has been and playing in San Francisco has probably hurt him more than even most other hitters. Belt just doesn’t hit for the power you want to see from a first baseman.

Evan Longoria is obviously very familiar to Red Sox fans. Like so many others on this roster, he’s not the star he once was and he’s simply been an average hitter in 2019.

Kevin Pillar represents yet another former AL East mainstay now playing in the Bay Area. Pillar hasn’t been anything special at the plate with the Giants but he can still make plenty of plays in center field.

Brandon Crawford can still pick it at shorstop, but he no longer swings the bat he did back in his All-Star hey day.

Jaylin Davis only just recently came up and has missed a few games with injuries, making it tough for him to really get going.

Stephen Vogt will probably get some time at DH this week, and he’s been solid at the plate this year despite rough plate discipline numbers.

Bullpen Snapshot

Will Smith is going to be one of the most highly sought after relievers in free agency this year. The lefty has emerged as a consistent strikeout threat, though he’s been hurt by the long ball this year despite pitching in an absurd pitcher-friendly park.

Anderson is pitching out of the bullpen these days after starting in his time with Boston and immediately after getting to San Francisco. This is the role in which he served in his college days, and he’s looked much better in the majors as a reliever than as a starter.

Jandel Gustave only strikes out a bit more than four batters per nine innings, which is comically low for a reliever. Despite that, he’s been tough to square up in a small sample and has had success without the whiffs.

Injuries

Sandoval, as mentioned above, is hurt. He underwent Tommy John surgery and is likely to miss some time in 2020 as well.

Tony Watson suffered a small fracture in his wrist earlier this month and will not return.

Reyes Moronta had to undergo surgery on his labrum last week and will not only be out for all of this year but will miss significant time in 2020 as well.

Steven Dugger went down with the same injury as Michael Chavis back in August and is expected to be out the rest of the year.

Trevor Gott sprained his UCL at the end of August and has been shut down for the rest of the year.

Zach Green is out for the rest of the year with a hip injury.

Weather Forecast

It looks like it’s going to be a nearly perfect week in Boston.