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Red Sox at Yankees Series Preview

A big three-game-in-two-days set with big playoff implications.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Pinstripe Alley

The opponent in one sentence

The Yankees have spent most of this season disappointing their fans after coming into the year as the American League favorites, but they’ve turned things around recently and are still right in the thick of the postseason chase.

Record

66-52

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 10, Yankees 3

Trend

Up. The Yankees have really been playing much better baseball for the better part of a month now, and while they did hit a little bit of a snag last week in which they were exchanging wins and losses, they are trending back up now. They’ve won each of their last three games, and they’ve won 11 of 15 games in August.

Pitching Matchups

8/17: Tanner Houck vs. Jordan Montgomery, 1:05 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

Houck was optioned following his last start, but that was just a paper move as the team knew he’d be recalled for this doubleheader where they’d be able to call up an extra player. (For those concerned about service time manipulation, which is valid, it doesn’t come into play here as players accrue service time if they are sent down for fewer than 10 days.) That should be his final optioning, as he is expected to remain in the rotation moving forward. And it’s well-deserved. There are issues with length, as Houck does start to struggle after four or five innings, but with this being a seven-inning affair it’s less of a concern. This will be Houck’s third time facing the Yankees this season, with one of the previous outings coming out of the bullpen and the other as a starter. Combined, he allowed one unearned run over 7 23 innings, striking out 11, walking three and allowing three hits. Ideally the Red Sox would like to be able to count on him for five innings moving forward, but given how important this series is I’d think they’ll give him a short leash once they get to the fourth, even if he’s cruising.

Tampa Bay Rays v. Boston Red Sox Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Montgomery was one of many players who has been affected by a recent COVID outbreak on the Yankees, coming back to make his first start since August 1. The southpaw has been solid for New York this season, pitching to a 3.69 ERA with peripherals that are marginally better. Like Houck, he hasn’t gone super deep into games this season (though he has been going deeper than Houck), making him a good fit for this seven-inning game. Montgomery will miss bats and for the most part has solid command, allowing him to keep his team in virtually every game he starts. He was particularly hot in his last three starts before hitting the COVID list, pitching to a 0.57 ERA with just about a strikeout per inning. Boston has seen him three times this season, scoring three runs over six innings in two of them before more recently being shut out over 5 23 innings. Montgomery will provide mostly an even split between his curveball, sinker and changeup while also mixing in a fair amount of four-seamers and cutters.

8/17: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Luis Gil, 7:05 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-network)

Eovaldi hasn’t always been dominant this year, but peripherally he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball — he ranks first among American League pitchers in fWAR, which is heavily based on FIP — and he’s been remarkably consistent. Before a stretch earlier this month, he had not allowed more than two runs in consecutive starts over roughly a three-month stretch. The good news there is Eovaldi did bounce back last time out after a couple of rough starts, allowing just one run against the Rays over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. This will already be his fifth start against New York this season, and he’s only allowed as many as two earned runs in one of them and overall he’s pitched to a 1.71 ERA with 28 strikeouts and one walk over 26 23 innings.

Gil came into this season as one of the top prospects in the Yankees farm system, and he’s looked good in his first couple of appearances in the bigs. It’s only been two starts, and it’s come against the Orioles and Mariners, but he’s yet to allow a run over 11 innings, striking out 14 and walking three. The righty has always shown off strong stuff in the minors, but his walk rates on the farm suggest the Red Sox should try to be patient and not allow the rookie to expand the zone. He leans heavily on his fastball, which sits in the mid-to-high 90s, and his slider, while also mixing in some changeups.

8/18: Nick Pivetta vs. Andrew Heaney, 7:05 PM ET (ESPN)

Pivetta is always the wildcard in this rotation, which was frustrating when he was the de facto number three in the group but is more palatable when he is the number five. That said, this is clearly a big series so the Red Sox are looking for more of the same of what we’ve seen more recently. While the righty has been inconsistent for much of this season, he’s pitched to a 2.16 ERA this month with 19 strikeouts and four walks over 16 23 innings. He is still struggling with the long ball, however, making a matchup against the Yankees in the Bronx a potentially scary proposition. Somehow, this is his first matchup against New York this season.

Heaney wasn’t the highest profile of additions for New York at the deadline, but he has been added to their rotation. It’s been a struggle for the lefty since joining the Yankees, however. He’s given up eight home runs in three starts, and he’s allowed at least four runs in each of them. While they weren’t as extreme, Heaney was experiencing some long ball issues before the trade while still with the Angels as well. There will be some strikeouts against him, but command has been a problem all year. The Red Sox did see him in early July, scoring three runs over 5 13 innings. Heaney will feature a fastball, curveball, and changeup.

Old Friends

Anthony Rizzo was, of course, a former top prospect in the Red Sox organization who was traded way back when in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. He was a potential target at the deadline but was acquired by New York instead, where he got red hot before hitting the COVID list.

Seattle Mariners v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Notable Position Players

Aaron Judge is clearly the best player on this Yankees team, even if everyone was healthy. His defense in right field is always underrated, but it’s the offense that really lifts his value. Judge has the well-known power, and he’s also cut his strikeout rate some while continuing to draw walks at a high level.

Joey Gallo is one of the big additions made by New York at the deadline, and he is one of the faces of the three-true-outcome era in baseball. That means he will strike out a whole lot — over 40 percent of the time since joining the Yankees — but also hit for massive power and drawing a ton of walks.

DJ LeMahieu got off to a very tough start this year, and while he’s still not hitting for the power New York likely wants to see after signing him to a six-year deal this winter, he is getting on base at a much better clip this month.

Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball as hard as anyone in baseball, and is always a threat to go deep. After a tough July, he’s making more contact this month, though the power is still modest than expected since the break.

Gary Sánchez is expected to rejoin the Yankees today after spending time on the COVID list. He’s not going to get a ton of hits, but when he makes contact it is often hard, leading to a bit of a resurgence at the plate this season.

Luke Voit was initially squeezed out of the lineup with the Rizzo acquisition, but with the latter out with COVID the former is back in there. He’s striking out more than expected and has just been average in sporadic playing time this year.

Brett Gardner is not the player he once was, and while he’s never been a great power hitter he’s not making the kind of contact he needs to in order to keep his overall line above water.

Rougned Odor has had some big swings for the Yankees, but his plate discipline still comes back to bite him and keep his line below average.

Tyler Wade gets on base at a decent enough clip, but his total lack of power keeps his line well below average.

Bullpen Snapshot

The Yankees are without Aroldis Chapman for the time being, leaving their bullpen a little shallower than you’d normally see from them. Chad Green and Jonathan Loaisiga are each good options in the late innings, but they’ve struggled to find arms they can trust behind them. More recently, Wandy Peralta has emerged as a lefty on a hot run.

Injuries

The Yankees have all sorts of injury issues right now. The aforementioned COVID issues are winding down, though Anthony Rizzo is still out. His return is nearing, though it may not be for this series. New York is still without starters Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres, as well as Miguel Andújar. Clint Frazier also suffered a setback and is likely out for the year. On the rotation side, Corey Kluber and Domingo Germán are both out while Luis Severino suffered a setback in his rehab. And then in the bullpen, as mentioned above Aroldis Chapman is out with an elbow issue.

Weather Forecast

It will be an interesting day weather-wise on Tuesday, where two games are scheduled to be played. There are showers in the forecast all day in the Bronx, though it doesn’t appear there is any major system coming through. At this point, basically any possibility is realistic.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.