7/6-7/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

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(REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

The season is halfway over but the Yankees have Red Sox have only played each other twice so far. New York won both games — including that epic 15-9 comeback win — back in April before rain suspended the final game of that would-be three-game series. That rain out will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader this weekend.

What Have They Done Lately?

Boston was just swept by the Athletics, part of a 2-5 road trip through Seattle and Oakland. Before that they’d won nine of 11 against mostly interleague competition. The Sox are 42-40 with a +50 run differential, good for fourth place in the AL East and the fourth best run differential in the league. I don’t get it either.

Offense

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

With a team 103 wRC+ and a 5.01 runs-per-game average, the Sox have one of the best offenses in baseball. They’re led by the still dynamic David Ortiz (157 wRC+), a legitimate Yankees killer and one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. He’s going to go deep at some point this weekend, just accept it and move on. The Yankees will catch a bit of a break because Dustin Pedroia (94 wRC+) will be placed on the DL with a thumb issue today, and we know how pesky he can be. Hotshot rookie Will Middlebrooks (130 wRC+) is questionable for the weekend as well with a hamstring issue. Good timing, eh?

As for the guys that are healthy, the Red Sox will rely on the disappointing Adrian Gonzalez (92 wRC+), the powerful Jarrod Saltalamacchia (114 wRC+), the scorching hot Daniel Nava (134 wRC+), the dreadful Mike Aviles (80 wRC+), and the bat-flippy Cody Ross (135 wRC+). Ryan Kalish (34 wRC+ in limited time), Brent Lillibridge (7 wRC+), Nick Punto (57 wRC+), Mauro Gomez (19 wRC+ in limited time), and Kelly Shoppach (135 wRC+) round out the rest of the actives. No word on what the roster move will be for Pedroia, but it’s unlikely to be any kind of impact bat. With Kevin Youkilis in Chicago and both Pedroia and Middlebrooks on the bench, Bobby Valentine’s lineup is a lot thinner than we’re used to seeing.

Pitching Matchups

Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Josh Beckett
A noted Yankees killer (depending on your endpoints), Beckett is making his second start back from the DL after a bout with shoulder inflammation. He held the Mariners to two runs in six innings last week and overall has pitched to a 4.06 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 13 starts this season. Beckett’s strikeouts are way down (6.40 K/9 and 17.4 K%) and he’s still giving up just about a homer-per-nine (0.96 to be exact), though his walk (2.13 BB/9 and 5.8 BB%) and ground ball (42.4%) rates are unchanged from the last few years. His fastball velocity is down about a mile and a half per hour this season, meaning his two-seamer, four-seamer, and cutter now sit low-90s instead of mid-90s. Beckett still has the hammer upper-70s curve and upper-80s changeup. We’ve seen enough of him, the Yankees have seen enough of him … no surprises here.

(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Saturday Game One: RHP Freddy Garcia vs. LHP Franklin Morales
Boston put Morales in the rotation when the Daniel Bard as a starter experiment failed spectacularly and he’s rewarded them by allowing just two runs across 13 innings in his first two starts. His overall season performance — 2.59 ERA (2.66 FIP), 9.50 K/9 (25.4 K%), 2.38 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 52.5% grounders in 41.2 IP — has been stellar, the kinda stuff the Rockies were expecting when Baseball America ranked him as the eighth best prospect in the game prior to the 2008 season. Morales uses a pair of mid-90s fastballs from the left side (two and four-seamer) to setup his mid-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen him for a whole nine plate appearances — four in April — so they’re pretty much going in blind.

Saturday Game Two: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Felix Doubront
The starting pitcher for that 15-9 comeback, Doubront carried a 3.86 ERA into June but has since allowed 20 runs in his last 33.1 innings. His season 4.42 ERA is a touch higher than the peripherals (4.19 FIP) but nothing crazy. He can strike guys out (9.13 K/9 and 23.2 K%) but isn’t anything special in the walk (3.41 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%) or ground ball (40.3%) departments. Doubront’s bread-and-butter is a big breaking mid-70s breaking ball, which he’ll setup with low-90s two and four-seamers. He’ll also mix in a mid-80s changeup. It’s worth noting that he ranks ninth in the league in stolen bases allowed, so run run run.

(Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

Sunday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Jon Lester
It’s been subpar year for Boston’s ace left-hander, who’s pitched to a 4.33 ERA (3.63 FIP) with a great walk rate (2.33 BB/9 and 6.2 BB%) but a mediocre strikeout rate (7.33 K/9 and 19.3 K%). He’s been fine as far as the ground balls go (48.2%). Lester uses three low-90s fastballs — sinker, cutter, four-seamer — to go with his mid-70s curve and mid-80s changeup. He gets himself into trouble when he falls in love with the cutter, using it exclusively for periods of time. Lester is still only 28, but he’s gone from being a truly elite starter to just a pretty good one over the last two years. Maybe he’s just burnt out by all the high-intensity innings at such a young age.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox had yesterday off so everyone out in the bullpen is rested. Embedded Yankee Al Aceves (3.24 FIP) has taken over as closer with some rather spectacular meltdowns, but he’s gotten the job done more often than not. Scott Atchison (2.56 FIP) has very quietly been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, working multiple high-leverage innings at a time. Andrew Miller (2.61 FIP) is Bobby V.’s only left-hander. Vicente Padilla (2.88 FIP) has been the primary setup guy while Matt Albers (4.83 FIP) and Mark Melancon (8.56 FIP) handle middle relief work. Melancon has been much better since coming back from Triple-A two or three weeks ago. Right-hander Justin Germano was just recalled for long relief and has yet to appear in a game.

Expect to see quite a bit of Boone Logan and Clay Rapada this weekend, particularly against Ortiz and Gonzalez. My biggest concern is matching up with Cody Eppley, who struggles against southpaws due to his low arm slot. Same with Chad Qualls. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent usage details and Over The Monster for the very best Red Sox analysis on the netweb.

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  • Robinson Tilapia

    This is…..not your older brother’s Sox team.

    We used to hate and fear them. Now we just shrug our shoulders and treat them like an annoyance we wish would go away.

    Let’s beat them so badly their own ugly children won’t recognize them.

    • Paul VuvuZuvella

      Oh, admit it, you still hate them. And really, last year they were favorites to win the division going into the year. Things change fast. One good trade and one good FA signing and they could win 96 games in 2013.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I hate them as a concept. I couldn’t give a crap about half these guys. Still hate Pedroia. Still hate Buchholz. Still hate Lackey. Other than that, there’s a whole lot of indifference going on.

        • Gonzo

          With Lackey out and Paps and Youk gone, I’m not sure who to hate with all my vitriol now. I’m almost lost.

          • Get Phelps Up

            Ortiz and Pedroia.

            • jjyank

              Yeah, and Buchholtz for me too. Maybe Salty.

              • Brian S.

                Why is Laptops so hated? Because he takes so long to pitch?

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  Easy to hate when he was coming up around the same time as Hughes, all the comparisons, etc. The laptop thing made for easy joke fodder. He also looks like a massively gigantic douche.

                  • jjyank

                    Pretty much sums it up.

                  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

                    What’s kind of funny is that Hughes grew up a Red Sox fan and Buchholtz grew up a Yankee fan.

                    • Robinson Tilapia

                      Which is why, in the end, this is all a bunch of crap and we’re all being played like a fiddle.

            • Robinson Tilapia

              I’ve never hated Ortiz. Too good.

              Salty? Shit underneath my shoe.

              • FIPster Doofus

                I actually like Ortiz. Beckett, on the other hand…

                • Robinson Tilapia

                  Beckett used to get a pass from me because he came up with the Marlins, my Miami connection, etc., but that was a long-ass time ago. Even Lowell wound up drawing my ire after a while.

          • Steve (different one)

            Beckett. The most loathsome player in MLB, hands down. Just nothing likable about him at all.

      • Gonzo

        I’m not sure he meant this, but they also don’t have the flexibility they once had too.

    • RetroRob

      Yankee fans underestimating a Red Sox team in their home park are setting themselves up for disappointment.

      • Brian S.

        I’d be more worried if we were playing them at the Stadium. We play better at Fenway for some reason.

      • JonS

        As long as the team doesn’t underestimate them, who cares what the fans do.

  • Eddard

    Let’s take 3/4 and send them 10 games back heading into the break. That will devastate them. They’ll be getting healthier in the 2nd half but so will we.

    • jjyank

      SWEEP.

  • gc

    For a while in the aughts, these games were neck and neck, but overall, this is the most overrated rivalry in sports. I never got wrapped up in it to the degree that other fans did. To me, the Red Sox have been, and will always be, just another team in the way. The one thing I’m hoping for in this series (aside from some continued decent Yankee starting pitching) is to see Cano light it up. He’s already on a good streak right now and he usually hits well in Fenway. It would be great to see him take over the series and dominate going into the ASG.

    • Bartolo’s Colon

      cano owns fenway, so lets hope he keeps that up this weekend. i disagree with you on the rivalry, i always stress more about these games. maybe it’s because they last forever or just the fact that i don’t like boston.

      • jjyank

        Yeah, I still get wrapped up in the rivalry too. Maybe that’s partly that I went to undergrad in Red Sox territory, so I have a lot of friends to smack talk with when they play the Sox.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I definitely want to just outright crush them, but it’s certainly different when there’s not something on the line. It’s not too crazy to suggest there still is this time around.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    Waiting for the inevitable meltdown from Greg as soon as Mike Aviles singles on an infield ground ball to start off the bottom of the 1st.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Three out of four….or Greg will be sad.

  • Bartolo’s Colon

    I hope we can take 3, but i wouldn’t be too dissapointed to split. my prediction, martin will have a solid series. I don’t know if the numbers show it, but it always seems that martin rakes against the red sox.

    • Paul VuvuZuvella

      I could see Martin only starting 2 games, but hope he rakes then.

  • Kevin

    I will be happy with a split. Very rare for a team to win two double headers. Take the game tonight,win one tommorrow and we’ll be good.

  • Gonzo

    What’s the over/under on the extra innings this weekend?

  • jjyank

    It’s a good thing that this weekend won’t feature AWESOME O’CLOCK.

    • Havok9120

      You beat me to this by half an hour, only I was going to wish that it was AWESOME O’CLOCK, because then we’d get to see the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball pitchery, Jaaaaaaaaahhhhnn Lahckeyyy.

      I would think that that would be a positive.

      • jjyank

        Yeah, you’re probably right. We also will be missing the guy with the most adorable little chocolate chip on his shoulder.

  • DERP

    I was hoping that Jose Iglesias would be called up for Pedroia, but unfortunately he was not.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      You mean he’ll just manipulate the game from up above?

  • Yankeefan1421

    I won’t be happy with a split, even though they only really even ‘need’ one of the four games.

    I really want three, though.

    And, wow, four would make all of Boston focus on Patriots camp and what Ray Allen is going to do. Sox would be buried in the news.

    Send all the pink hats home.

    Ultimately, I want to see no more than 25,000 people every night in Fenway from Labor Day on.

    I want empty seats all over that rat infested sinkhole. I want the aroma of irrelevance in the air all across the Fens.

  • Athenian

    This is a response from the previous thread where I mentioned Ortiz in place of ARod in the line up.

    The comment wasn’t about knowing how to get rid of ARod – it is impossible with his performance and salary, no point in the Yankees eating $20 of the $30 mil he is paid to play elsewhere.

    It was more about “if” and it is a big pie in the sky “if” there was a way. Arod has maybe 3 good years left. Ortiz, roughly about the same. From a purely offensive perspective, Ortiz would provide much much more protection for both Cano and Tex in the line up.

    Sorry for the confusion and lack of response. Got side tracked with work.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      While not practical and, probably, not popular, it’s well within reason to suggest that the Yankees can both of them in the fold. You’re right in that wishing for Alex to be gone is a silly gesture and, frankly, I don’t really want that anyway.

      If Ortiz was at the point where he’d accept a bench role, I’d be open to it, but a bench guy who can only DH? No matter how good the bat still is, it just feels like a badly-spent roster spot.

      I have no qualms about fitting Ortiz for pinstripes, but I think I’ve made that pretty clear.

  • Athenian

    Honestly, based on match ups, the only game I see as a struggle will be the Garcia game and ONLY because he is very limited in his ability to pitch and there are those short corners at Fenway.

    Otherwise, I see two Yankee blowouts – winning by 5+ runs – coming tonight and tomorrow night. I think the Yankees get to Doubront.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Yeah, Morales doesn’t scare me at the moment, and we’ve faced the others countless times and know what to expect, whether we get to them or not.

      I think we’re the better team and, while these could always go either way, and strange things happen at that ballpark, advantage goes to the better team.

  • Randi

    The rivalry just isn’t what it used to be.

  • Monterowasnotdinero

    Let’s hope Beckett doesn’t pitch TOO inside tonight. Kuroda won’t bean anyone in retaliation.

    • Jim Is Bored

      I’ll take the free baserunners.