Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Mailbag: Garcia, Gardner, D-Rob, Pujols, CC
Looking Back. Looking Forward.
(From Flickr user charliekwalker via Creative Commons.)

For the second time in three years, the Red Sox have dominated the Yankees in the first half. In 2009 it was 8-0, but this year the Yankees managed to squeak out a win in the first half, going 1-8 against their closest rivals. Last time around the Yankees closed the gap and finished 9-9 against the Sox. They have nine second half games to turn it around again, and it starts with three at Fenway Park this weekend.

What Have the Red Sox Done Lately?

The Red Sox, as anyone who pays attention to Bob Lorenz’s in-game updates knows, just split a four-game series with Cleveland. Before that they took two of three from the White Sox and Royals, leaving them 6-4 in their last ten. It’s hardly a poor mark; only nine teams are at that or better in their last 10. But the Yankees are 8-2 in that span, and have caught the Red Sox in the AL East race. That’s always interesting, because it means one team will leave the series on top. There will be no ties.

Red Sox on Offense

(From Flickr user firebrandal via Creative Commons.)

As a team the Red Sox lead the AL in basically every offensive category: BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, wOBA, etc. The Yankees are close behind, but Boston has held the edge since mid- to late-May, and has run with it. Only lately have the Yankees started to make up ground, as their recent play against the White Sox leaves them just eight runs behind the Sox for most in the majors.

There are 19 major leaguers with a wRC+ of 145 or better, and four of them are Red Sox: Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. Ellsbury is the big surprise there, returning from an injury riddled 2009 to produce numbers the likes of which no one thought him capable. His 18 home runs is just two shy of his entire career combined, his OBP is at its highest level by about 20 points, and he’s still stealing bases along the way. A lot of this is BABIP fueled: his .344 mark is about 20 points higher than his career average. But if you watch him play, it makes sense. The dude is hitting everything on a line.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The media has recently brought up the notion of Adrian Gonzalez for MVP. That works, if your definition of MVP is, best player on a contending team. That’s not to take away from the season Gonzalez has produced. He’s created more runs than any player in the league — except Jose Bautista, of course, and he’s far enough ahead that it’s tough to not consider him the MVP. In any case, Gonzalez has been a dominant force in the middle of the Sox order, dismantling pitchers and spurring scoring frenzies. No doubt you’ll hear that one of the “keys” for the Yankees is to neutralize Gonzalez. Yep. Key to the game: don’t let the other team hit. Got it.

After a somewhat slow start, Pedroia has vaulted himself to the top of almost every offensive number among second basemen. The conversion really happened after April, and in 384 PA since then he’s hit .331/.418/.526. He’s also currently on not only a five-game hit streak, but a five-game multi-hit streak. It’s been that kinda season for Pedroia, who, after fading a bit in the second baseman conversation after an injury plagued 2010, has regained his throne in his return.

The problem with the Sox offense for the Yankees, as it has been for so many years, is that it shows few weaknesses. The above guys are just a small listing of the guys who can do some damage. There’s obviously Ortiz, who has put together a monster contract year. But there’s also Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is hitting .300/.366/.558 since June 1, Carl Crawford, who can still be a pest, Josh Reddick, a rookie on a hot streak, and of course Kevin Youkilis. As with the Yankees lineup, there is no break for the pitcher.

Red Sox on the Mound

Photo credit: Charles Riedel/AP

Friday: LHP Jon Lester. After years of failing against him, the Yankees have finally broken through against Lester this season — relatively, at least. They’ve faced him twice, scoring seven times in 12 innings while picking up 13 hits. Before that he pretty well dominated them, especially in 2010, when he held them to six runs in 25.1 innings. After a quick trip to the disabled list he’s been back to his old self, allowing just three runs in 13.1 innings. Last time out was particularly good, as he struck out eight while allowing two runs in eight innings. Then again, that was against the White Sox, and we all saw this week how they hit. But don’t let that undersell you on Lester. He’s still one of the best in the game, and he always seems to bring his best when facing the Yankees.

Saturday: RHP John Lackey. Last year began poorly for Lackey, but it got somewhat better as the year progressed. After the All-Star break he had a 3.97 ERA (3.17 FIP) in 15 starts, after having a 4.78 ERA in 18 first-half starts. This year he started off poorly, allowing 15 runs in his first two starts. Things got something better, but they’ve gone up and down since then. He’s even spent some time on the DL with elbow issues. In his last two starts, against Kansas City and Cleveland, he’s allowed nine runs in 12.1 innings, raising his season ERA to 6.23. His peripherals look pretty bad, too, as he has a 4.72 FIP, 4.21 SIERA, and 4.51 xFIP to go along with the inflated ERA.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP

Sunday: RHP Josh Beckett. There was a time, as recently as last year, when the Yankees simply killed Beckett. Sure, he’d have a dominant start against them here and there, but for the most part the Yanks had as much success against him as they have any other ace-type pitcher. This year, however, he has been nothing but dominant against the Yankees, facing them three times and allowing just two runs in 21 innings, including two starts where he allowed no runs. He’s kept up that dominance, too, allowing zero or one run in a start 11 times out of 21 starts. His 2.20 ERA is behind only Jered Weaver in the AL, though his 3.23 FIP and 3.57 xFIP place him a degree lower.

Bullpen: The Red Sox bullpen ranks fifth in the AL with a 3.53 ERA, though they’re second with a 3.39 FIP. (The Yankees lead in both categories.) Jonathan Papelbon has had a quality bounce-back year, and his peripherals are much stronger than his results. Daniel Bard enjoys another dominant year in set-up, while the Sox have also gotten quality performances out of Matt Albers. The rest have stumbled, to some degree or another, but still represent one of the stronger bullpens in the league.

Recommended Red Sox Reading: Over The Monster.

Mailbag: Garcia, Gardner, D-Rob, Pujols, CC
Looking Back. Looking Forward.
  • gc

    Welcome to Fenway Park: America’s most cramped, uncomfortable and outdated ballpark. Just pray you can get through the whole game without having to use the bathroom.

    • Brian in NH

      They’ve actually been re-doing the seats lately. They aren’t as bad as they used to be. I sat in the bleachers last year for a Rays/Sox game. Wasn’t too bad. Still more cramped than Camden though.

      • Brian in NH

        …never been to YSIII, but i thought the seats at YSII were decent and not too cramped

  • CBean

    I know no one series means more than any other until we get to the playoffs but God, I really really want the Yankees to win this series.

    • JohnC

      Agree. They need to win this series just to prove to themselves that they CAN beat the Red Sox. Getting this first game is a big key. They have actually hit Lester this year for a change, even though they have lost both games. With Garcia going against Beckett on Sunday, its important to win this first game if they want to win the series.

      • Jerome S.

        The Yankees have beaten the Sox once this year.

        Problem solved.

      • CP

        They need to win this series just to prove to themselves that they CAN beat the Red Sox.

        This is 100% the fan reaction and 0% the player reaction.

        The players go into every single game KNOWING they can and will win. That’s just the athlete’s mindset.

        • JohnC

          But CAN THEY GET IT DONE??????? Thats the question they need to answer. Talk is cheap

          • gc


          • Cris Pengiuci

            There are only 4 wins that matter against the Soxand they occur in the playoffs. It would be nice to win this weekend, but if they don’t, the 2 teams may meet in the ALCS and those are the only games that mean anything.

    • Jimmy McNulty

      No, that’s not completely true. Typically divisional series mean more than non-divisional ones. This is a pretty big series, make no mistake about it, a sweep still has HUGE implications in the divisional race. I know some homer will say that the division/WC doesn’t matter. But chew on this: The division winner likely ends up getting Cleveland/Detroit while the WC winner gets Texas or the Weaver/Haren one-two punch from Anaheim. I’d say that’s pretty big.

  • Rich in NJ

    It would be cool (although admittedly it’s highly unlikely) if Montero was called up and DH’d tonight.

  • Tom Bombadil

    This is a crucial series and will set the tone for the rest of the season. We need to beat these guys and finally beat Beckett. I think Freddy can match him if we can scrape across a few runs for him.

    • Jerome S.


    • I Voted 4 Kodos

      The Yankees have knocked Beckett around many, many times in his career. He’s pitched well against them this year, but his career numbers against them are less than impressive. They can beat him and they know it.

  • JohnC

    What has happened with Ellsbury this year? The guy has turned into a hitting machine. Need to keep him under control this weekend.

  • Zach

    You know what really sucks? Two Fox Saturday games in a row with the Sox tomorrow and the Rays next week. Ugh.

    • Brian in NH

      for those of us outside the NY metro area…not all bad :)

      even though we all lament the national guys on ESPN and FOX, for someone like me, when you get three straight days of yankees on TV its still a small blessing.

  • Frank

    I’m looking forward mostly to the game tomorrow which, on paper, favors the Yanks. But CC has not had a great career vs. the RS and this season’s he’s 0-3 against them. Many already have him winning the CY award and there’s no dispute he’s had an otherwise graet season. But he needs to pitch well and win tomorrow.

  • gc

    I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was kid back in the 70’s. And all throughout my life, I’ve looked on in bewilderment at how entirely blown out of proportion this “rivalry” is. I’ve always contended that this thing means way more to Boston fans than it does to Yankee fans. I can acknowledge that over the past decade or so, it’s gotten to be a lot more close in terms of being evenly matched, but historically this is not much of a rivalry. The Yankees are 177 games over .500 against Boston all-time (as opposed to a REAL rivalry of evenly matched teams like Dodgers/Giants where SF is only a mere 16 games over .500 all-time).

    Honestly, the Red Sox to me are just another team in the way, just like all the rest. I don’t consider these next three games as being any more crucial than any other series from here on out, and I certainly don’t think the ultimate success of the Yankees’ season hinges on this weekend’s games or any of the other remaining games against Boston for that matter. I want them to win, of course, and I want them to play well. But I’d be much happier if people would just come in from off the ledge when it comes to these games. Wishful thinking, I know…

    • CP

      Exaclty. The hammer doesn’t exactly have a rivalry with the nail, does it?

    • Simon

      This. I think the “rivalry” handle is a good story with great history, but its still a three game set with both teams really just trying to win no matter who they play.

      To me, this series is just a measuring device to see if Colon and Garcia can hold down a great offense like Boston or Texas and see if they can be viable number 2’s and 3’s in the playoffs.

      • Zach

        If I recall correctly, Colon pitched pretty decently against them in his first start against the Sox. He also had that impressive relief effort against them in the beginning of the year. Garcia on the other hand, has struggled against them.

    • nsalem

      True these games have absolutely no effect on a playoff outcome, either team making the playoffs or whose going to finish at the top of the division. If the two teams meet in October the makeup of the teams will be different, due to injuries, late additions and whoever is hot now may not be so in October. They are a snapshot of where we are at this point n the season and also lots of fun to watch. Much more important to the fans than the players.

      • Jimmy McNulty

        Well they don’t directly effect the playoff outcome, but if the Red Sox win the rest of the games against the Yankees we’ll know who the favorites are. It’s a confidence thing. I mean sure the Yankees could go 0-18 against the Red Sox and end up beating them in the ALCS, but how likely is that? I mean, sure Brett Marshall could get called up tomorrow and throw a perfect game, but again how likely is it? 18 games is still a ninth of a regular season, which isn’t a a negligible amount.

    • Mike R.

      I have to agree. The reason why they are my least favorite team more or less has to do with the fact that we are usually 1-2.

      Let’s say that the Blue Jays usurp the Red Sox one day and hopefully we are still a juggernaut. Boom. Blue Jays are our biggest rival from my standpoint

  • Jim S

    “That’s always interesting, because it means one team will leave the series on top.”

    Cue rainout.

    • Rick

      Is tonight a my9 game?

  • UncleArgyle

    I would be happy with a single win this weekend. I’m tired of these sweeps.

    • Jim S

      I laughed.

  • Yank The Frank

    We usually end up playing close to 500 against each other every year. If that continues to hold true we are in for some good times for the remaining games.

    • MannyGeee


  • Hollywood

    Just avoid the sweep. Leaving town even with a 1 game deficit means the division is still very much in play. All other considerations are purely media narratives. As previous commenters noted, the Yankees KNOW they can and will beat the Sox every time they step out.

  • Crime Dog

    Series Preview. ALCS Preview. Tomato, Tomato

  • Brandon

    Ellsbury was hurt last year not 2009 and Pedroia went didnt have a hit yesterday so there is no 5 game multi hit streak, though he is on fire at the moment. Just thought you should know. Please God let the Yanks win at least one game this series!

    • Brandon

      *excuse the grammar mistake

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    “…one team will leave the series on top. There will be no ties.”

    Girardi: These our witness, Uncle. Us suffer bad. Want justice. We want Fenway!

    Uncle Bud: You know the law: Two teams enter, one team leaves.

    Girardi: This CC! Twenty team enter, only him leave!

    Uncle Bud: Then it’s your choice. Fenway. Remember where you are – death is listening, and will take the first team that screams.

    • MannyGeee

      wow, obscure movie reference, straight from the TSJC school of blog posting. well played sir… although I think I woulda went with something like:

      – Sons of The Bronx! I am CC Sabathia.

      – CC Sabathia is seven hundred pounds!

      – Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he’d consume the Red Sox with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse.

  • David, Jr.

    Would like to see a better tone set, meaning that this time we won’t be messed with. Hit Uterus or Big Poopy right in their big fat asses right away.

    • Jim S

      What I would prefer: Strike them all out on 3 pitches each.

      Hit 8 home runs, win each game by 18.


      • David, Jr.

        Agree, but they usually use us for target practice.

        • David, Jr.

          Along with everybody else. They have hit 60 batters this year. The league average is 36.

        • Jim S

          Right, and I think the best revenge is winning, not hitting them back and letting them have free base runners.

  • CMP

    This series isn’t the end all be all of the season that many fans are making it out to be but I think at the very least, you would want to see the Yankee starters hold their own against a tough lineup since they have their top 3 guys lined up.

    Also, some wins against Boston would be nice since at some point, continually losing to the same team has to get inside your head at least a little like it probably has with Minnesota and the Yanks.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    i’ve grown to loathe the sox/yanks series…games are too long and the hype is insane. and if you can’t get the yanks brodcasters its like a 3-4 stay in Hatersville, USA.

  • Jimmy McNulty

    This is a pretty big series, make no mistake about it, a sweep still has HUGE implications in the divisional race. I know some homer will say that the division/WC doesn’t matter. But chew on this: The division winner likely ends up getting Cleveland/Detroit while the WC winner gets Texas or the Weaver/Haren one-two punch from Anaheim. I’d say that’s pretty big.

  • Jorge

    Nothing makes my blood boil more than watching a Yankee game at Fenway Park. Hate it. Even when we’re up 18-0, there will still be a “Yankees Suck” chant.

    Would love to see two out of three, and would especially love to the Yanks treat Beckett like they used to. Nothing would make me happier.


  • Yank The Frank

    Strange line up. No Gardner & Jorge batting right against Lefty Lester. I’d rather sit Jorge, DH Swisher and put Gardy in right.