Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

2011 Draft: KLaw's Updated Top 100 Prospects
Noesi up, Carlyle sent down

Things aren’t as bad for the Red Sox now as they were the last time the two teams met. Of course, it was difficult to get any worse for them at that time. Even through their struggles they managed to take two of three. While they’re not out of the woods, it is now the Yankees who are struggling. Perhaps we’ll see a reversal of fortune this weekend. Given the way the Yankees have played lately, it’s tough to see them doing any worse.

What Have the Sox Done Lately?

Awk-ward (Winslow Townson/AP)

The Sox haven’t exactly been on fire, but they haven’t struggled too badly either. They did drop their last two to the Blue Jays, but before that they won three straight against the Twins. Of course, they dropped the three before that, but won the three before that. Yeah, they’ve been doing the up again, down again thing, and it has them at 17-20 currently, and 5-5 in their last 10. It’s tough to read too much into that, of course, since they’ll have their three best starters going this weekend, whereas they had Matsuzaka, Lackey, and Wakefield sprinkled throughout those 10 games.

Red Sox on Offense

(Winslow Townson/AP)

At all times there must be at least two Red Sox players who absolutely crush the Yankees. These are usually the better players anyway, and they crush other teams. But as with Miguel Cabrera, it seems that they give that little extra and really punish the Yankees. It used to be Ortiz and Manny. Now it’s Pedroia and Youkilis. It’s hard to remember a series from the past few years — in which they both played, of course — where they didn’t scald the ball and make life tough on the Yanks.

It might scare you a bit, then, that Pedroia is on something of a cold streak. He’s hitting just .237/.355/.317 on the season, and that’s just .195/.313/.220 this month. Don’t be lulled, though. As I mentioned on the podcast, to me this makes it appear as though Pedroia is primed for a breakout in the series. We know he’s a good hitter, one of the best hitting second basemen in the league. He’s going badly now, and he’s going to turn it around. Considering how much he’s killed the Yanks, I’m having an easy time envisioning him with a 6 for 12 series with a handful of walks and extra base hits.

Ellsbury has certainly added to the offense (Michael Dwyer/AP)

Adrian Gonzalez, Jed Lowrie, and Youkilis are leading the offense right now, with 22 doubles and 12 homers between them. In fact, Gonzalez has hit four of his seven in the last four games, during which he has gone 10 for 20 with a double in addition to the four homers. Youkilis hasn’t been quite as hot of late, though he’s still getting his singles and walks. Lowrie has slipped from his early season dominance but is still hitting .327/.360/.505 in 114 PA. I’m surprised he’s walked only six times all year, but that’s probably because he was hitting the ball so well earlier in the year. David Ortiz has turned around his recent history of poor starts and his hitting .291/.372/.488 in his first 145 PA, so he’s helping lead the charge, too. The surprising contributor here is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is at .292/.342/.451, which is nice for the Sox, because he helped compensate for Carl Crawford’s early season crawl. For his own part, Crawford has hit .356/.370/.467 since the calendar flipped to May.

The only trailers, really, are J.D. Drew (.242/.364/.364), Pedroia, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.200/.250/.267). Chances are we’re going to see Jason Varitek (.145/.241/.212) in at least one, and perhaps two, of the games this weekend. That’s a gain all around, as he can’t hit and has no arm. The only positive is that it seems he gets better performances out of the pitching staff. How much of that is skill and how much is chance — he does seem to catch the better pitchers, after all — is up for debate. Either way, the Sox have a light-hitting fixture at the bottom of the lineup.

Red Sox on the Mound

(Michael Dwyer/AP)

Friday, RHP Clay Buchholz. The last time the Yankees faced Buchholz they hit him around pretty well, racking up eight hits and scoring five runs while driving him from the game in the fourth. He’s had some better success in his subsequent starts, and in his last two his line goes: 11.2 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K, 0 HR. The last start was the most impressive, no runs on two hits and six strikeouts in five innings, but it was shortened by rain. We’ll have to deal with his ultra slow approach, which makes for some bad baseball watching. But that doesn’t seem to affect his results.

One thing to watch with Buchholz is the ground balls. He did a great job in his first two seasons of keeping the ball on the ground, and he’s done a decent job of it this year, too. But his fly ball percentage is up a bit, as his home runs to fly ball ratio. That could play into the Yankees hands. Of course, how many times have I written that before, and how many times has it not come true?

(Steve Senne/AP)

Saturday, RHP Josh Beckett. After looking a bit shaky in his first start Beckett got back on track against the Yankees in his second one. He now has his ERA down below 2.00, and his peripherals go right along with that. The strikeouts are a tick lower than in the past, but just a tick. Everything else, including the low walk and home run rates, are right in line with his best years. The Yankees do have a history of knocking around Beckett, but when he’s on like this we just can’t expect it. That curveball is one of the most devastating pitches in the league, and when his back is strong and he’s throwing it well and often, few opponents stand a chance.

Here’s the thing, though: he’s not going to the curveball as much as he has in the past. In the past two years he’s gone to the changeup a bit more often. Thing is, at least this year it has been just as effective, if not more effective, than his curve.

Sunday, LHP Jon Lester. That’s the name you hope you avoid when the Sox are in town, and the first time through the Yankees did get that lucky. This time they rejiggered the rotation to slot Lester in. He’s coming off a very poor start, in which he walked five, including three in the first inning, against Toronto. Yet he’s not a guy I’m going to bet on having two poor starts in a row. Would you? We could be in for another one of those shutdown Sunday night performances we’ve seen from Lester in the past. This is the one game I’m not looking forward to, not only because Lester has a history of killing the Yankees (3.28 ERA in 74 career innings, including 80 strikeouts), but because Freddy Garcia is going for the Yanks. I love what Sweaty Freddy has done so far, but the Red Sox seem like a team that could knock him around a bit.

Recommended Red Sox Reading: Red Sox Beacon, written by friends of RAB Marc Normandin and Patrick Sullivan.

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2011 Draft: KLaw's Updated Top 100 Prospects
Noesi up, Carlyle sent down
  • jon

    Noesi has been called up to replace Buddy Carlyle

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      (transfers present irrational hatred of Joe Girardi for pitching that worthless scrub Carlyle in a big spot to future irrational hatred of Joe Girardi for pitching that worthless green rookie Noesi in a big spot)

  • Yank the Frank

    I believe in “due”. We are due to get hot. This would be a nice time.

  • jon

    Pedroia’s a good hitter, one of the best hitting second basemen in the league.*

    *in fenway

  • Billy Mumphrey

    Beckett’s back, Bucholz and Lester are Cy young caliber and we couldn’t hit the likes of Vin Mazzaro and Brad Penny. I don’t have a good feeling at all about this series. Bartolo got knocked around, CC hasn’t pitching like an ace, and Freddy could be a disaster vs the Boston lineup. It’s a must win series but I don’t think we can win it.

    • Cuso

      I agree with your feeling about our chances in the series.

      Just not with the “must win” aspect of it.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Clay Buchholz is hardly Cy Young caliber.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Well, back in 1887, local rapscallions Cy Young and lifelong chum Millard Adderley were detained by local constables under suspicion of pilfering 29 Babbage Punch-Card Machines from the campus of Oberlin College, so in a way, you could compare the caliber of Young and Buchholz.

        • jon

          well played mauer

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

      lol

    • Chris

      Buchholz has a 4.19 ERA and a 5.25 FIP this year. If that wins a Cy Young award, then something has gone terribly terribly wrong. Penny pitched well against them, but Mazzaro gave up 2 runs and 10 baserunners in 4 IP which is not very good.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It’s a must win series

      No, for the millionth time, it’s really, really, really not.

      • Chris

        Wrong. Just like 2009, this is a must win series.

        • CMP

          It’s not a must win series in mid May but if the Yankees get swept, I have a bad feeling that the Red Sox will blow right by them in the standings and never look back.

          • Chris

            Just like 2009?

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

            With all due respect (and I mean that seriously), your bad feelings are utterly meaningless.

            • CMP

              That’s a pretty obnoxious statement with or without the “With all due respect” part.

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                Maybe that was a harsh way of saying it, my bad. Try this:

                While your bad vibes about a potential Red Sox sweep leading inexorably towards disastrophe are vibes that you are by all means entitled to, those vibes don’t really offer much predictive value, because there’s just so much of the season left. (And, because they’re just vibes, of course, and not real events that have actually happened.)

                Better?

                • CMP

                  Yes thanks.

                  After all, Anything anyone posts on this blog is nothing more than an opinion and unless someone here is clairvoyant, their opinion is no more valid than anyone elses.

                  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                    [gives CMP an internet handshake]

      • David

        It’s a must win series for some fans teetering on the edge of the ledge

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          It’s a must-win for Freddy Garcia. If he doesn’t win on Sunday, I’m going to kill this wagonload of adorable puppies.

          http://www.tanmonkey.com/fun/p.....-wagon.jpg

          Do you want that on your conscience, Garcia? DO YOU?

    • FIPster Doofus

      So Buchholz is Cy Young caliber, but CC isn’t pitching like an ace. OK.

  • Regis

    Got 5 tickets to tomorrow night’s game. Don’t let me down CC!

  • http://www.simdynasty.com/index.jsp?refer=Jeety Jeety

    This should be a really fun series, I’d take Cano over Pedroia all the time, but whatever, the more overrated Pedroia is the more overconfident the Sox will be with him. It works to our advantage for their players to be overrated b/c generally that will get them overpayed…

  • Cuso

    “Given the way the Yankees have played lately, it’s tough to see them doing any worse.”

    It’s kind of easy seeing them letting the Red Sox getting right back into this thing, actually. I’m not being pessimistic. I’m just stating that with the way their defense is playing and how awful the bats have been, I could easily see the Sox sweeping the Yanks in the Stadium.

    They’re throwing Lester, Beckett and Buchholz. Sabathia, Colon & Garcia are all trending downward with their prior starts.

    What’s the best part about the pitchers we’re facing? We know they’ll be seeing at least SOME fastballs this weekend.

    I hope we get vintage CC and the Colon that we’ve been getting all year long (sans the last start).

    Completely honest here: I’d be surprised if the Yanks won 2-out-of-3.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_mandaura Steve H

      Using one start sample sizes (ie their last starts) is poor reasoning.

    • Chris

      In his last start Garcia went 6 innings and gave up one run against the team that has scored the most runs in the AL. That’s not exactly a downward trend.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      It’s kind of easy seeing them letting the Red Sox getting right back into this thing, actually.

      As much as we all loved goofing on Boston’s horrid start (and Mo knows I did), it’s impossible for the Yankees to let the Red Sox “get right back into this thing” because the Red Sox were never out of this thing in the first place.

      Teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are never out of contention in April or May. It just doesn’t happen, not with these particular franchises and their overall starting talent base, ability to add talent midseason, and organizational resources and mandate.

      The Sox would have needed to go like 0-30 to be out of it in April. And even then, they wouldn’t be fully dead.

      Mid-August is the earliest we should worry about the Red Sox potentially being “out of it” and the Yankees theoretically letting them back into it. Nothing that happens this weekend will change either team’s realistic contention for a playoff spot. Too soon.

    • pat

      FWIW Lester is coming off his worst start of the season.

      • Cuso

        Fair enough regarding the “were never out of it” aspect.

        The point I was trying to make is that I could easily see the Yanks losing the series, possibly getting swept and continuing the bad play.

        You can correct all the dicta from my posts that you like. The central points are valid.

  • CMP

    Looking at the pitching matchups, I’m just hoping we don’t get swept.
    Can’t see the Yanks offense doing much with Lester or Beckett.

    • Yank the Frank

      Except perhaps kicking their asses.

    • UncleArgyle

      I could easily see the Yanks punting the three game series and getting swept. Hopefully that won’t happen, but it sure wouldn’t surprise me the way they’ve been playing recently.

      • Chris

        I could easily see the Yankees crushing the Red Sox in a three game sweep.

  • 4everbronx

    ESPN is so Red Sox biased it makes me sick.