4/7 to 4/9 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

At long last, the Yankees have escaped Florida. Aside from that quick little one-day trip to Atlanta for the exhibition game at SunTrust Park last week, the Yankees have been stuck in the Tampa area since mid-February. They’re now in Baltimore for a three-game weekend set against the Orioles. After that, the first home stand of the season. Thank goodness.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Orioles had an even wonkier schedule than the Yankees this week. They opened the season with a little two-game series against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. They played Monday, had an off-day Tuesday, played Wednesday, then had another off-day Thursday. What is that? Good grief. The O’s won both games against the Blue Jays, including the first on a Mark Trumbo walk-off home run.

Offense & Defense

Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Fightin’ Showalters have scored six runs in their two games so far, and in typical Orioles fashion, four of those six runs have come on home runs. Adam Jones hit a two-run shot while Trumbo and Chris Davis hit solo homers. Here are the numbers so far and each player’s 2017 ZiPS projection:

2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Welington Castillo 3-for-7 (.429), 1 2B .243/.304/.421 (91 wRC+), 17 HR
1B Chris Davis 2-for-8 (.250), 1 HR .239/.334/.509 (121 wRC+), 39 HR
2B Jonathan Schoop 1-for-7 (.143) .264/.297/.453 (97 wRC+), 22 HR
SS J.J. Hardy 0-for-7 .249/.287/.368 (71 wRC+), 10 HR
3B Manny Machado 2-for-7 (.286) .289/.349/.511 (127 wRC+), 32 HR
LF Hyun Soo Kim 0-for-3 .294/.370/.434 (117 wRC+), 11 HR
CF Adam Jones 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .267/.304/.450 (97 wRC+), 27 HR
RF Seth Smith 1-for-4 (.250), 1 2B .252/.341/.434 (107 wRC+), 14 HR
DH Mark Trumbo 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .251/.307/.491 (109 wRC+), 32 HR
BENCH
C Caleb Joseph N/A .227/.274/.358 (65 wRC+), 9 HR
UTIL Ryan Flaherty N/A .217/.288/.357 (70 wRC+), 7 HR
OF Joey Rickard 0-for-5 .244/.314/.334 (75 wRC+), 4 HR
OF Craig Gentry 0-for-2 .216/.280/.264 (52 wRC+), 1 HR
1B/OF Trey Mancini 1-for-4 (.250) .263/.314/.436 (98 wRC+), 21 HR

Like the Yankees, the Orioles are using early season off-days to skip their fifth starter. They have three off-days within the first nine days of the season and four off-days within the first 16 days of the season. Geez. Unlike the Yankees though, the Orioles are using the extra roster spot to carry a fifth bench player, not an eighth reliever. The only position player they’re missing is outfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 Draft pick who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

Baltimore has played two games and they’ve faced one right-handed starter and one left-handed starter. They’re platooning the left-handed hitting Kim and Smith with the right-handed hitting Rickard and Mancini. Smith and Rickard hit leadoff in the two games, then the thunder followed in the two through five spots: Jones, Machado, Davis, Trumbo. Yikes. Schoop and Hardy have hit eighth and ninth, respectively, in both games so far.

The Orioles are going to hit a ton of home runs this season. That’s what they do. They will not, however, steal bases. This is largely the same roster as last season — the only notable changes are Castillo in for Matt Wieters and Smith in for Pedro Alvarez — and last year the O’s stole 19 bases total. 19! Rickard led the club with four. Gentry can fly and he’s a quality pinch-running option. Otherwise this is a station-to-station team that lives and dies with its power.

On defense, Baltimore is very good to great all around the infield — Davis doesn’t get enough credit for being a good defensive first baseman — and mediocre to bad in the outfield regardless of who is in the corners. Jones is still a decent center fielder but he has started to lose a step. Gentry is, far and away, the best outfield defender on the roster, and his bat makes him a bench player only. Castillo is a pretty good thrower behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
I still do not understand using Ubaldo before Zach Britton in the AL Wildcard Game last season. I don’t understand it and I never will. Jimenez, now 33, had a typical Ubaldo Jimenez season in 2016: 5.44 ERA (4.43 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts, 11.3% walks, and 49.0% grounders in 142.1 innings. Actually, that’s a bit worse than a typical Ubaldo season. Makes the Wildcard Game decision even more confusing. Last season Jimenez worked right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seam fastballs, and his go-to secondary pitch is a low-80s splitter. He also throws a mid-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball. Ubaldo is cut from the same cloth as Michael Pineda. Every once in a while he’ll come out and dominate, but most of the time he’ll leave you frustrated.

Saturday (4pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
The O’s have so many early off-days that they can skip not only their fifth starter, but their fourth starter too. Gausman got the ball on Opening Day and he’ll get the ball in the fourth game of the season as well. The 26-year-old right-hander held the Blue Jays to two runs in 5.1 innings in his season debut Monday. Last season he had a 3.61 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 179.2 innings and good gravy, Gausman dominated the Yankees in six starts: 41 IP, 33 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 35 K, 2 HR. That’s a 1.10 ERA and 2.51 FIP. He shut them down every time out. Gausman is a three-pitch pitcher with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a knockout mid-to-upper-80s splitter. A low-80s slider is his third pitch. Hopefully all the new faces in the lineup will help the Yankees avoid being dominated by Gausman again this summer.

Sunday (1:30pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Officially, the O’s are listing this rotation spot as TBA. It will be Wade Miley, however. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list with flu-like symptoms, which is total garbage and just a way for the team to manipulate the roster. It allowed them to carry an extra player for a few days. Miley will be activated for Sunday’s start. He threw an 87-pitch simulated game Tuesday to get ready. Yeah. Miley, 30, was terrible overall last season (5.37 ERA and 4.45 FIP) and somehow even worse with the Orioles (6.17 ERA and 3.79 FIP) than the Mariners (4.98 ERA and 4.76 FIP) after coming over in a midseason trade. His overall strikeout (19.3%), walk (6.9%), and grounder (47.3%) rates were okay. At this point of his career Miley works right around 90 mph with his two and four-seam fastballs, in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup, and in the mid-70s with his curveball. The one thing that always stands out to me about Miley starts are how quickly he works. He gets the ball and is ready to throw. He puts the pressure on the batter to be in the box and ready to swing.

Bullpen Status

Okay, I kinda lied earlier. The Orioles are carrying both a fifth bench player and an eighth reliever. The Miley disabled list move makes that possible. So far Buck Showalter has only had to use four of his bullpen arms. Here are the real numbers and the fake projections:

Role 2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS
LHP Zach Britton
Closer 3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K 2.25 ERA (2.27 FIP)
RHP Brad Brach
Setup 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K 3.04 ERA (3.38 FIP)
RHP Darren O’Day
Setup N/A 2.76 ERA (3.58 FIP)
RHP Mychal Givens
Middle 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K 2.95 ERA (3.11 FIP)
LHP Donnie Hart
Middle N/A 3.45 ERA (3.88 FIP)
LHP Vidal Nuno
Middle N/A 3.77 ERA (4.14 FIP)
RHP Tyler Wilson
Long 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K 4.96 ERA (4.77 FIP)
RHP Oliver Drake Long N/A 3.81 ERA (3.76 FIP)

Britton’s had a tough go of it early on. I watched his two outings and he was struggling to locate both times. He missed some time with an oblique issue in Spring Training and it seems like he’s still trying to get locked in with his command. Brach, O’Day, and Givens are a nice little trio of righties and they each have a different look. It’s not like you’re going to see a parade of fastball-slider guys out of the bullpen.

Both the Yankees and Orioles had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpens are well-rested. Checkout our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

4/2 to 4/5 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Meaningful baseball! Indoors? (Presswire)
Meaningful baseball! Indoors? (Presswire)

At long last, meaningful baseball is back. The Yankees open the 2017 regular season this afternoon with the first of three games against the Rays at Tropicana Field. For some reason the Yankees and Rays have an off-day Monday even though this series will be played in a dome. I guess the Opening Day game was originally scheduled for Monday before ESPN flexed it to Sunday. The Yankees’ schedule the next ten days goes game, off-day, game, game, off-day, game, game, game, game, off-day. Fun.

What Have They Done Lately?

Last season was pretty much a disaster for the Rays, who went 68-94 with a -41 run differential overall, including 37-62 in their final 99 games. They hold the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft as a result. Tampa hasn’t picked that high since taking Tim Beckham first overall in 2008. Buster Posey was picked fifth overall that year. Not the greatest moment in Rays history. Anyway, the Rays went 12-16-5 with a +14 run differential this spring. That means nothing me.

Offense & Defense

Longoria. (Presswire)
Longoria. (Presswire)

Over the last few seasons the common theme has been the Rays can pitch, but they can’t hit. Last year they started to hit, but their pitching let them down. Go figure. Tampa Bay averaged 4.15 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+ a year ago, and their biggest position player loss over the winter was noted Yankees killer Logan Forsythe. Won’t miss that dude at all. He crushed the Yankees.

No one has any stats because the season hasn’t started yet, and there’s no chance I’m going to regurgitate Spring Training numbers here, so instead here is each player’s 2016 performance and their 2017 ZiPS projection.

2016 MLB Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Derek Norris .186/.255/.328 (55 wRC+), 14 HR, 458 PA .229/.302/.382 (80 wRC+)
1B Logan Morrison .238/.319/.414 (101 wRC+), 14 HR, 398 PA .242/.318/.399 (96 wRC+)
2B Brad Miller .243/.304/.482 (111 wRC+), 30 HR, 601 PA .248/.313/.440 (104 wRC+)
SS Tim Beckham .247/.300/.434 (98 wRC+), 5 HR, 215 PA .236/.286/.388 (82 wRC+)
3B Evan Longoria .273/.318/.521 (123 wRC+), 36 HR, 685 PA .266/.318/.485 (113 wRC+)
LF Mallex Smith
.238/.316/.365 (84 wRC+), 16 SB, 215 PA .231/.296/.322 (71 wRC+)
CF Kevin Kiermaier .246/.331/.410 (104 wRC+), 12 HR, 414 PA .258/.316/.426 (101 wRC+)
RF Steven Souza .247/.303/.409 (94 wRC+), 17 HR, 468 PA .242/.314/.419 (101 wRC+)
DH Corey Dickerson
.245/.293/.469 (101 wRC+), 24 HR, 548 PA .251/.300/.461 (103 wRC+)
BENCH
C Jesus Sucre .480/.522/.680 (244 wRC+), 1 HR, 29 PA .236/.263/.292 (51 wRC+)
IF Daniel Robertson N/A (110 wRC+ in Triple-A) .241/.316/.340 (83 wRC+)
OF Peter Bourjos .251/.292/.389 (79 wRC+), 5 HR, 383 PA .230/.286/.361 (71 wRC+)
UTIL Rickie Weeks .239/.327/.450 (102 wRC+), 9 HR, 205 PA .213/.299/.374 (85 wRC+)

Reminder: The Rays traded Trea Turner (+3.8 WAR from 2015-16) and Joe Ross (+3.5) to the Nationals for Souza (+1.9) two years ago on purpose. That’s going to go down as an all-time bad trade. If you’re a big market team like the Yankees, you can survive that because you can paper over the mistake with money. A small payroll team like the Rays? Forget it. Total disaster.

Aside from a Smith/Bourjos platoon in left field, the Rays look to be fairly set with their lineup. We’re used to seeing them employ multiple platoons and all sorts of different lineup arrangements. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year. Longoria is the center piece, obviously. Even if the Rays do opt for multiple platoons, Longoria will be in the lineup day after day, not posting a .900 OPS.

I should note the Rays will not have three key-ish players to start the season due to injury: SS Matt Duffy (Achilles), OF Colby Rasmus (hip), and C Wilson Ramos (knee). Ramos won’t be back until midseason after tearing his ACL for the second time in four years. Tampa Bay signed him to a two-year deal over the winter knowing that. Duffy and Rasmus are expected back sometime point in April, possibly in time for the series between these two clubs at Yankee Stadium next week.

The Rays started sacrificing defense for power a few years ago, leading to Souza in right and Miller at second. Both are liabilities in the field. Kiermaier is excellent, probably the best defensive center fielder in baseball, and Longoria is very good at the hot corner. The Smith/Bourjos platoon will save runs in center field. Beckham and Morrison are solid defenders, and while Norris doesn’t have much of an arm, he rates as a very good pitch-framer. So, overall, the Rays are good defensively, but not otherworldly like they were three or four years ago.

Pitching Matchups

Archer and Cobb. (Presswire)
Archer and Cobb. (Presswire)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Chris Archer (vs. NYY)
Nice pitching matchup to start the season. Archer is better than last year’s numbers (4.02 ERA and 3.81 FIP) would lead you to believe, and I think we all know that. His strikeout (28.2% from 2015-16) and ground ball (46.9% from 2015-16) tendencies suggest good things will happen. I have no evidence to back this up and I’m too lazy to look through the game logs, but it seems Archer usually dominates the Yankees for a few innings before giving it up late. Am I the only one that feels that way? Whatever. As always, Archer is primarily a mid-90s fastball/upper-80s slider pitcher, though his mid-80s changeup has come a long way the last few seasons. His slider is one of the best in the business, hence the strikeouts. It gives both lefties and righties fits.

Tuesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TB) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (vs. NYY)
It’s too bad the Yankees don’t have Brian McCann anymore. He’s wrecked Odorizzi throughout his career: 13-for-28 (.464) with three doubles, three homers, and a triple (!). Last season Odorizzi pitched to a solid 3.69 ERA (4.31 FIP) in a career high 187.2 innings, and, like everyone else, he became very home run prone (1.39 HR/9). The ball was flying out of the park last summer. I hope it does again this year too. Homers are fun. Odorizzi’s strikeout (21.5%), walk (7.0%), and grounder (36.6%) rates were right where they always are in 2016. He’s more of a pop-up guy that a long fly ball guy, so don’t get too excited by the lack of grounders. Odorizzi has a deep repertoire that includes three fastballs (low-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutter), one offspeed pitch (mid-80s splitter), and two breaking balls (low-80s slider and low-80s curve). The split has become his go-to put-away pitch. Odorizzi has been pretty tough on Yankees not named McCann the last few seasons.

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
Future Yankee Alex Cobb? He’ll be a free agent after the season and seems like a potential alternative to pricier free agents like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta (and Tanaka?). He’s good, he’s reasonably young (29), and he’s had success in the AL East. Seems like someone the Yankees would gravitate toward. Anyway, Cobb missed all of 2015 and most of 2016 with Tommy John surgery, and when he returned last year, he had an 8.59 ERA (5.60 FIP) in five starts and 22 innings. His walk (6.7%) and grounder (52.5%) rates were in line with his career norms, though his strikeouts (15.4%) were way down and his homers (2.05 HR/9) were way up. Typical post-Tommy John surgery rust and small sample size weirdness, I’d imagine. A mid-80s splitter is Cobb’s moneymaker, and he also throws a low-90s four-seamer and an upper-70s curveball.

Bullpen Status

Farquhar. (Presswire)
Farquhar. (Presswire)

Manager Kevin Cash will be short a few relievers to start the season because of injuries. RHP Brad Boxberger (lat), RHP Shawn Tolleson (flexor), and Rule 5 Draft pick RHP Kevin Gadea (elbow) are all on the disabled list. Tolleson and Gadea are on the 60-day DL already, so they’re out long-term. Boxberger could return later this month.

Unlike the Yankees, the Rays can not use early season off-days to skip their fifth starter, so they’ll open the new season with a normal seven-man bullpen. Remember when six-man bullpens were normal? Good times. Here is Tampa’s relief crew:

Role 2016 MLB Stats 2017 ZiPS
RHP Alex Colome Closer 1.91 ERA (2.92 FIP), 31.4 K%, 56.2 IP 2.93 ERA (3.18 FIP)
RHP Danny Farquhar Setup 3.06 ERA (5.10 FIP), 29.1 K%, 35.1 IP 3.79 ERA (3.92 FIP)
LHP Xavier Cedeno Setup 3.70 ERA (2.64 FIP), 34.7 K%, 41.1 IP 3.40 ERA (3.45 FIP)
RHP Tommy Hunter Middle 3.18 ERA (3.06 FIP), 16.6 K%, 34 IP 3.81 ERA (3.70 FIP)
RHP Jumbo Diaz Middle 3.14 ERA (5.24 FIP), 20.3 K%, 43 IP 3.82 ERA (4.20 FIP)
RHP Erasmo Ramirez Middle 3.77 ERA (4.76 FIP), 16.7 K%, 90.2 IP 4.08 ERA (4.61 FIP)
RHP Austin Pruitt Long N/A (3.76 ERA and 3.53 FIP in AAA) 4.69 ERA (4.51 FIP)

As the only lefty in the bullpen, I assume Cedeno will be Cash’s designated Greg Bird specialist these next three games. That’s not the most intimidating bullpen in the world — the middle relievers don’t figure to miss many bats at all — but Colome is an All-Star caliber closer, so if the Rays have a lead after eight innings, the Yankees will be in trouble. Farquhar, by the way, is one of the players the Yankees traded to the Mariners for Ichiro Suzuki back in 2012.

9/30 to 10/2 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Duane Burleson/Getty)
(Duane Burleson/Getty)

So here we are. The final series of the 2016 season. The Yankees were eliminated from postseason contention last night by the Orioles, who are in the Bronx for the final three games of the season this weekend. Baltimore beat the Blue Jays to knock the Yankees out. Alas. The Yankees are 8-8 against the Orioles this season, including 5-2 at Yankee Stadium.

What Have They Done Lately?

The O’s took two of three from Toronto this week and they’ve won five of their last six games overall. They’re 87-72 with a +23 run differential. The Orioles and Blue Jays are tied for the second wildcard spot, and the Tigers are 1.5 games back. Baltimore’s magic number is three. Sweeping them this weekend wouldn’t automatically push the O’s out of the postseason — the Tigers still need to take of their own business — but it would be a big help for Detroit.

Offense & Defense

The Orioles have had exactly the kind of offense everyone expected them to have this season. They hit a ton of homers (247) but they’re only okay at getting on base (team .317 OBP), which is why they’re middle of the pack with an average of 4.58 runs per game. Their team wRC+ is exactly average at 100. The O’s are without UTIL Steve Pearce (forearm) and Rule 5 Draft OF Joey Rickard (thumb), who are done for the year.

Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Davis. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Despite a .314 OBP, CF Adam Jones (98 wRC+) remains manager Buck Showalter’s leadoff hitter for whatever reason. Lately 1B Chris Davis (110 wRC+) has been batting second too, so that’s fun. 3B Manny Machado (130 wRC+) and DH Mark Trumbo (121 wRC+) hit third and fourth. Showalter starting bunching his four best hitters at the top of the lineup about a week ago. DH Pedro Alvarez (117 wRC+) and rookie DH Trey Mancini (283 wRC+) have been platooning as the No. 5 hitters.

C Matt Wieters (85 wRC+), 2B Jonathan Schoop (94 wRC+), and SS J.J. Hardy (91 wRC+) are the team’s other regulars. OF Hyun-Soo Kim (122 wRC+) and OF Nolan Reimold (78 wRC+) have been sharing time in left field of late. C Francisco Pena (33 wRC+), UTIL Ryan Flaherty (62 wRC+), and OF Michael Bourn (75 wRC+) were the regular bench players for much of the season. C Caleb Joseph, IF Paul Janish, and OF Drew Stubbs are the extra September call-ups.

Defensively the Orioles are a solid team with above-average defenders at all four infield spots. Well, Machado is arguably the single greatest defensive player in baseball, so he’s more than above-average. Jones is solid in center, ditto Wieters behind the plate, but the corner outfield spots leave a lot to be desired regardless of who Showalter sends out there. When it doubt, hit it to Trumbo.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
Had Gallardo been merely bad instead of disastrous, the Orioles would have probably locked up a playoff spot a few days ago. The 30-year-old right-hander has a 5.63 ERA (5.09 FIP) in 22 starts and 112 innings this season, and there’s basically no silver lining in his rate starts. Not enough strikeouts (16.3%) or grounders (43.4%), and too many walks (11.4%) and homers (1.29 HR/9). His platoon split is small because batters on both sides of the plate have hit him well. Gallardo’s four-seamer and sinker sit right around 90 mph, and his trademark slider is still humming in around 87 mph. He’ll also throw mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs. The Yankees have seen Gallardo twice this year. The first start was okay (four runs in seven innings) and the second was a nightmare (eight runs in 1.1 innings).

Saturday (4:05pm ET): TBA vs. TBA
The O’s still have Saturday’s starter listed as TBA but it is expected to be lefty Wade Miley, who has been away from the team the last few days on paternity leave. The 29-year-old southpaw has a 5.40 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 29 starts and 160 total innings this season, though it’s a 6.38 ERA (3.91 FIP) in ten starts and 48 innings with the O’s since coming over from the Mariners at the trade deadline. His peripherals are middling (18.7 K%, 7.0 BB%, 47.9 GB%, 1.35 HR/9) and righties have hit him a ton harder than lefties. These days Miley sits in the low-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and pairs them with low-to-mid-80s changeups and sliders. He’ll also toss a few upper-70s curves per start too. The Yankees have seen him just once this season, scoring four runs in five innings a little less than four weeks ago.

As for the Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka (forearm) threw a bullpen session yesterday and says he wants to make his scheduled start tomorrow, but the Yankees might simply shut him down now that they’ve been knocked out of the race. If they do, I guess Luis Severino would get the start the instead. Kinda weird he hasn’t been suspended, right? Maybe MLB forgot he threw at a hitter intentionally (twice!) and was ejected. Usually that’s an insta-suspension announced the next day. Weird.

Update: Severino has been fined for his role in Monday’s brawl, but not suspended. Huh.

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Sunday (3:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Hah, figures. Last game of the season and who do the Yankees have to face? The guy who’s crushed them all season. Though, to be fair, Gausman has been dominating everyone of late. He has a 3.15 ERA (3.90 FIP) since the All-Star break. The 25-year-old northpaw has a 3.66 ERA (4.08 FIP) in 29 starts and a career high 172.1 innings. His strikeout (23.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates are very good, though Gausman has been a little too fly ball (43.4 GB%) and home run (1.41 H/9) prone. Then again, pretty much every pitcher has been homer prone this season. Righties have hit Gausman harder than lefties and that’s not unusual because he has a nasty mid-80s splitter. That pitch is the equalizer against batters of the opposite hand. His fastball sits mid-to-high-90s and he’ll also throw some low-80s curveballs. In five starts against the Yankees this season Gausman has a 0.80 ERA and a .205/.240/.279 batting line against in 33.2 innings. Yeah.

Bullpen Status

The Orioles are fighting for their playoffs lives and Showalter has declared this an all hands on deck weekend. That means starters RHP Dylan Bundy (4.02 ERA/4.69 FIP) and RHP Chris Tillman (3.77/4.22) are available in relief, if necessary. Tillman is lined up to start the wildcard game and they probably don’t want to mess with that if at all possible though. Anyway, here is Showalter’s bullpen.

Closer: LHP Zach Britton (0.55 ERA/1.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Brach (1.60/2.86), RHP Darren O’Day (3.90/4.68)
Middle: RHP Mychal Givens (3.18/3.26), LHP Donnie Hart (0.50/3.53), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.18/3.05)
Long: RHP Vance Worley (3.53/4.82)
Extra: LHP Jayson Aquino, RHP Oliver Drake, LHP Bran Duensing, RHP Tyler Wilson, RHP Mike Wright

O’Day has missed much of the season with hamstring and shoulder problems, but he’s healthy now and on the roster. Him, Brach, and Britton form a really tough end-game trio. Britton might be the best closer in the game right now. Showalter, like Joe Girardi, loves his matchups, so get ready for lots and lots of pitching changes this weekend.

Brach (23 pitches) and Hart (four pitches) both pitched last night. Then again, with a 12-man bullpen, availability isn’t much of a problem. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi’s relief crew.

9/27 to 9/29 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Matt Hazlett/Getty)
(Matt Hazlett/Getty)

I think we’ve all been waiting about 14 seasons for this: David Ortiz’s final series against the Yankees. The Yankees are planning a ceremony to honor Ortiz prior to Thursday’s game, and I can’t imagine anyone is seriously upset by that. If you are, maybe take a step back and take a deep breath or something. Anyway, the Red Sox are in the Bronx for a three-game set. The Yankees are 5-11 against the BoSox this season, though most of the damage has come in Fenway Park. The two clubs have split the six previous games in Yankee Stadium this year.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox are molten hot right now. They come into this series riding an eleven-game win streak, the first four of which were those four awful games in Fenway last week. The Yankees did hold the lead in three of those four games though, so … yay? Anyway, Boston swept the Orioles and Rays last week to open up a comfortable six-game lead in the AL East. They’re 92-64 with a +192 run differential overall, and their magic number to clinch the division is one. New York’s tragic number is two. Pretty good chance the Red Sox will clinch the division and the Yankees will be eliminated this series.

Offense & Defense

No team has had a more dominant offense the last few years than the 2016 Red Sox. They’re averaging 5.51 runs per game, the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees scored 5.65 runs per game. Boston needs to score 39 runs in their final six games to become the first team to score 900+ runs since those 2009 Yankees scored 915, so it’s within reach, but not a lock to happen. They have a team 114 wRC+ and are without 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle), and IF Josh Rutledge (knee), all of whom had season-ending surgery.

Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Betts. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The top of manager John Farrell’s lineup is set: 2B Dustin Pedroia (121 wRC+), SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+), DH David Ortiz (167 wRC+), RF Mookie Betts (137 wRC+), and 1B Hanley Ramirez (127 wRC+) bat 1-5 every game. That’s one of the best lineup top fives we’ve seen in quite some time. Lately 3B Travis Shaw (89 wRC+) has been hitting sixth and it seems like the Red Sox want him to take hold of the third base job heading into the postseason, but he hasn’t obliged. He owns a 61 wRC+ in September.

OF Andrew Benintendi (134 wRC+) and OF Chris Young (125 wRC+) are platooning in left field while CF Jackie Bradley (121 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (128 wRC+) play everyday. Leon has cooled down big time these last few weeks, which was entirely expected. IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and UTIL Brock Holt (90 wRC+) are the frequently used bench players. C Ryan Hanigan, C Christian Vazquez, C Bryan Holaday, IF Deven Marrero, IF Marco Hernandez, and IF Yoan Moncada are the extra players.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, especially up the middle with Leon, Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Bradley. Betts is very good in right as well, and both Benintendi and Young get the job done in left. The corner infield spots can be a problem. Shaw is a first baseman playing third and Hanley is a DH playing first. Generally speaking though, the Red Sox are a sound club in the field.

Pitching Probables

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Oh wow, look at that, the Yankees are going to face David Price. Weird. You never see that. Price, 31, as a 3.91 ERA (3.38 FIP) in 218.2 and 32 starts in his first season with the Red Sox. Great strikeout (24.6%) and walk (5.1%) numbers, as usual, and middling home run (1.07 HR/9) and grounder (44.1%) rates, also as usual He makes up for that with a lot of weak pop-ups and fly balls. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastball still lives in the mid-90s. His cutter checks in at a tick below that and it’s an extremely effective pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. Four times the Yankees have faced Price this season. Four. He has a 7.71 ERA in those four starts and the Yankees are hitting .350/.387/.540 against him, so they have that going for them.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
The overall numbers are ugly — Buchholz has a 5.00 ERA (5.18 FIP) in 133.1 innings in 2016 — but they don’t tell the whole story because he’s been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. The 32-year-old has a 5.29 ERA (5.48 FIP) in 110.2 innings as a starter this year, though that includes a 3.97 ERA (4.72 FIP) in September. So, long story short, Buchholz has been a bit more effective recently than he has been for much of the season. His peripherals are mediocre at best (15.3 K%, 9.3 BB%, 40.7 GB%, 1.42 HR/9) and lefties have had much more success against him than righties. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. He’s faced the Yankees twice this year, once out of the bullpen (two-thirds of an inning) and once as a starter (two runs in six innings).

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Thursday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
For a guy who started the season in the NL West, the Yankees sure have seen a lot of Pomeranz this year. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 3.35 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 30 starts and 169.2 innings overall, though he had much more success with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP) than he has with the Red Sox (4.68 ERA and 4.86 FIP). His overall strikeout (26.4%) and ground ball (46.4%) rates are good, though his walk (9.3%) and homer (1.17 HR/9) numbers are not good. He has a 1.87 HR/9 with Boston. Yikes. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup since the trade to Boston. The Yankees have faced Pomeranz three times and have had more more success each time: one run in seven inning in July (with the Padres), one run in 5.2 innings in August (with the Red Sox), and four runs in 3.2 innings (with the Red Sox).

Bullpen Status

The bullpen was a big weakness for the Red Sox for much of the season, but things are starting to fall into place now, right before the postseason. They still lack a shutdown lefty. That’s about the only glaring need. Anyway, here is the bullpen Farrell is working with these days.

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.65 ERA/2.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (3.60/3.43), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.24/3.00)
Middle: LHP Fernando Abad (3.66/3.97), RHP Matt Barnes (4.13/3.67), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.21/3.14), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.25/4.29)
Extra: RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Heath Hembree, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robby Scott

With the Red Sox set to clinch the AL East title very soon, don’t be surprised if the take it easy on Kimbrel and Uehara this week and give high-leverage work to some of the kids. Their focus will shift from trying to win games to preparing for the postseason very soon.

The Red Sox had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get this late in the season. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, of which only about five guys are used regularly.

9/23 to 9/26 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)
(Photo Credit: Flickr user James D. Schwartz via Creative Commons license)

We’ve reached the final road series of the season. Crazy, huh? This season flew by. The Yankees are in Toronto for a four-game series against the Blue Jays, a team they are kinda sorta chasing in the wildcard race. At this point it doesn’t matter who the Yankees play. They need wins. The Yankees are 6-9 against the Blue Jays this season, including 1-5 at Rogers Centre. They did sweep three games from them at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago though.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Blue Jays just wrapped up a late-season West Coast trip through Anaheim and Seattle. They split four games with the Angels and took two of three from the Mariners, though they lost the series finale on a Robinson Cano walk-off sacrifice fly Wednesday. Overall, the Blue Jays are 83-69 with a +83 run differential. They’re sitting in the top wildcard spot at the moment.

Offense & Defense

It’s not the devastating offense we saw last season, but the Blue Jays are still averaging 4.75 runs per game with a team 102 wRC+, so they’re going to score and score a lot. They’re much better at home (5.04 R/G and 109 wRC+) than on the road too (4.47 R/G and 96 wRC+). Manager John Gibbons’ team is completely healthy on the position player side too. No one hurt or even day-to-day.

Donaldson. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Donaldson. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Gibbons changed his lineup a tad after getting swept in Yankee Stadium two weeks ago. 2B Devon Travis (111 wRC+) moved to the leadoff spot, so the three-headed monster of 3B Josh Donaldson (154 wRC+), DH Edwin Encarnacion (137 wRC+), and RF Jose Bautista (115 wRC+) hits 2-3-4. C Russell Martin (101 wRC+) and SS Troy Tulowitzki (101 wRC+) follow as the No. 5 and 6 hitters. Scary lineup is scary. It feels like a miracle whenever a pitcher gets through that top six without allowing a run.

1B Justin Smoak (92 wRC+) and CF Kevin Pillar (81 wRC+) are the other regulars, and lately LF Michael Saunders (120 wRC+) has been platooning with OF Melvin Upton Jr. (85 wRC+). C Dioner Navarro (57 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (85 wRC+), and OF Ezequiel Career (82 wRC+) are the other regular bench players. They don’t play a whole lot. C Josh Thole, IF Ryan Goins, OF Darrell Ceciliani, and OF Dalton Pompey are the extra September players. Pompey is the designated pinch-runner.

The Blue Jays are a very good defensive team — they’re second in baseball with a 0.716 Defensive Efficiency, which means they turn 71.6% of batted balls into outs — with Bautista their only below-average defender. He’s got a great arm but doesn’t cover as much ground as he once did. Playing on turf all those years isn’t good for the knees. Pillar, Donaldson, and Martin are among the elite defenders at their positions.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:07pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. TOR) vs. LHP Francisco Liriano (vs. NYY)
The Pirates, who I’m told can fix any pitcher, were so desperate to unload Liriano at the trade deadline that they had to give the Blue Jays two legitimate prospects to take him. All they got back was Drew Hutchison too. Anyway, Liriano has a 5.08 ERA (5.17 FIP) in 150.2 total innings this season, including a 3.89 ERA (4.86 FIP) in 37 innings with Toronto. His strikeout (22.3%) and ground ball (52.0%) rates are very good as always, though he walks too many (12.0%) and can’t keep the ball in the park (1.55 HR/9). Righties have had a little more success against him than lefties. Liriano has nasty stuff. He still sits in the mid-90s with his sinker and both his mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup can miss bats, at least when he’s locating. When he’s on, Liriano can dominate. The Yankees saw him in relief two weeks ago and mustered nothing in two innings.

Saturday (4:07pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marcus Stroman (vs. NYY)
It seemed like a lot of people viewed Stroman as an ace coming into the season, didn’t it? I never understood that. The 25-year-old has a 4.50 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 30 starts and 190 innings, and his success is built on limiting walks (6.1%) and keeping the ball on the ground (60.4%). His strikeout (19.7%) and homer (0.99 HR/9) numbers are average. Stroman’s platoon split is small because he throws six pitches: mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers, low-90s cutters, upper-80s sliders and changeups, and a low-80s curveball. The sinker, cutter, and slider are his three main offerings. He tends to get cute and try to beat hitters with his fifth and sixth best pitch, which has hurt him a bunch of times this year. The Yankees have seen Stroman only twice this year: two runs in eight innings in April, and two runs in five innings in September. I thought they hit him harder than that two weeks ago. Huh.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Sunday (1:07pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
I have no idea if this has any effect on the field, but I like that the Blue Jays have all different looks in their rotation. Their starters are all different. The Yankees have a bunch of hard-throwing fastball/slider guys. Toronto’s rotation mixes it up. Estrada, a finesse guy, has a 3.62 ERA (4.19 FIP) in 27 starts and 164 innings this year. His peripherals don’t jump out at you (22.9 K%, 9.1 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 1.21 HR/9) but his ability to generate weak pop-ups means very few balls fall in for hits. Estrada has a .236 BABIP this year, up from .216 last year. It’s not a fluke. It’s the result of all the pop-ups. The 33-year-old righty uses an upper-80s fastball and an upper-70s changeup to keep hitters off balance. The changeup is why he has a reverse split this year. He’ll also throw a few upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves per start, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. Estrada has made three starts against New York in 2016: three runs and seven innings in May, eight scoreless innings later in May, and five runs in four innings in August.

Monday (7:07pm ET): TBA vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
Happ, 33, is going to get a bunch of Cy Young votes this year thanks to his 20-4 record. His 3.28 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 30 starts and 181.1 innings is really good, don’t get me wrong, but those 20 wins are going to get the most attention. Happ is another contact manager like Estrada — the underlying numbers: 21.7 K%, 7.3 BB%, 42.1 GB%, 1.09 HR/9, .273 BABIP — though not to the same extreme. Righties hit him harder than lefties. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Nothing sexy there. The Yankees have seen him four times this season: one run in six innings in April, one run in seven innings in May, one run in six innings later in May, and four runs in 7.1 innings in August.

Bullpen Status

The bullpen outside the ninth inning was a real weakness for the Blue Jays earlier this season. They were able to overhaul the bullpen on the fly through minor trades, and it’s worked well. Their middle relief is much more reliable now. Here is the relief unit Gibbons has at his disposal:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (2.42 ERA/2.98 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joaquin Benoit (2.93/3.94), RHP Jason Grilli (3.36/3.74)
Middle: RHP Joe Biagini (2.84/3.09), LHP Brett Cecil (4.05/3.64)
Long: RHP R.A. Dickey (4.46/5.01), RHP Scott Feldman (3.97/4.22)
Extra: RHP Danny Barnes, LHP Matt Dermody, LHP Aaron Loup, RHP Bo Schultz, RHP Ryan Tepera

It’s crunch time now, so Gibbons has used Osuna for some four-out saves recently, and he’s even brought him into tie games on the road. No one does that. Benoit and Grilli have turned back the clock in the seventh and eighth innings. Biagini has been a nice Rule 5 Draft find too. Seems like teams are doing a better job finding gems in the Rule 5 Draft the last few years.

The Blue Jays had an off-day yesterday as they returned from their West Coast trip, so the bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get. It’s worth noting Osuna has worked a lot in the last week though. He’s thrown multiple innings three times in the last seven days. Fatigue could be a factor this weekend. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

9/20 to 9/22 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

Dome sweet dome. (Presswire)
Dome sweet dome. (Presswire)

Ugh, the Yankees are playing again? The last week hasn’t been all that pretty. I’m not sure I want to sit through any more heartbreaking losses. On the bright side, the Yankees are in Tampa to play the last place Rays this week, not in Boston to play the first place Red Sox. The Bombers are 9-7 against the Don’t Call Me Devil Rays this season, though they’re only 2-4 at Tropicana Field. That includes the three-game sweep in late-July that pushed ownership to sell at the trade deadline.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rays have been playing spoiler lately. They took two of three from the Blue Jays last week and split four games with the Orioles in Camden Yards over the weekend. Overall, Tampa Bay is 64-85 with a -22 run differential this season. Believe it or not, they were 31-32 at one point. They’ve gone 33-53 since. Needless to say, this is a must sweep for the Yankees to have any shot at the postseason.

Offense & Defense

Last week the Rays set a new franchise single-season home run record. They’ve gone deep 205 times this year, breaking the old record of 199 set back in 2009. Despite that, they’re still averaging a below-average 4.24 runs per game with a team 100 wRC+. (The Yankees are at 4.21 and 92, respectively.) Since we last saw them, the Rays lost 1B Logan Morrison (wrist) and OF Steven Souza (hip) to season-ending surgery. Morrison hurt his wrist on a swing against the Yankees, as you may remember. SS Matt Duffy (Achilles) is done for the year too.

Longoria. (Cliff McBride/Getty)
Longoria. (Cliff McBride/Getty)

Manager Kevin Cash has a set top of the lineup nowadays: 2B Logan Forsythe (122 wRC+) leads off and is followed by CF Kevin Kiermaier (107 wRC+), 3B Evan Longoria (127 wRC+), and 1B Brad Miller (110 wRC+) in that order. Those four drive Tampa’s offense. When they get shut down, they don’t score. UTIL Nick Franklin (119 wRC+) and DH Corey Dickerson (98 wRC+) have been hitting fifth and sixth, respectively, in the wake of the Morrison and Souza injuries.

SS Alexei Ramirez (64 wRC+) is a stopgap and 1B Richie Shaffer (94 wRC+) has taken over at first base with Morrison hurt. C Bobby Wilson (88 wRC+), C Luke Maile (60 wRC+), and C Curt Casali (49 wRC+) have been rotating behind the plate in September. OF Jaff Decker (2 wRC+) and OF Mikie Mahtook (25 wRC+) are the Rays’ only extra players right now. They’re only carrying one extra bench player (a third catcher) even though rosters have expanded. I wonder if they’ll call someone else up following the recent injuries.

The Rays are more or less punting defense these days, though Kiermaier is excellent in center and Forsythe, Ramirez, and Longoria are all good to great on the infield. The corner outfield spots and first base are a problem. The three catchers are all cut from the all-glove/no-bat cloth. Kinda weird to see a Tampa team that isn’t fantastic defensively, isn’t it?

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TB) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (vs. NYY)
Smyly, 27, was the centerpiece of the David Price trade a few years ago, and he has a 4.98 ERA (4.53 FIP) in 28 starts and 164.1 innings this season, so that’s not working out as hoped. His strikeout (23.0%) and walk (6.7%) rates are very good, though his home run (1.70 HR/9) and ground ball (30.9%) numbers are really scary. That’s bad. His platoon split is tiny thanks to his mid-80s cutter and mid-70s curveball. Smyly does a good job keeping righties off balance with the cutter. His four-seam fastball sits right around 90 mph and he doesn’t have a changeup. The Yankees have faced Smyly twice this season. They scored one run in seven innings in April and two runs in six innings in July. I remember neither of those games.

Wednesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TB) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (vs. NYY)
Three starts into his return from Tommy John surgery, the 28-year-old Cobb has a 3.06 ERA (3.93 FIP) in 17.2 total innings. His has start was his best; he held the Blue Jays to one run and two hits in 6.2 innings. Cobb has 12 strikeouts and four walks in those 17.2 innings, plus a very good ground ball rate (55.6%). Lefties have had much more success against him than righties so far. Cobb’s sinker has sat right around 90 mph in his three starts while his splitter has sat in the mid-80s. He also has a hard low-80s curveball. Everything is down 2-3 mph across the board. That can be scary coming off elbow reconstruction, though Cobb could still be building arm strength. The Yankees scored four runs (three earned) in six innings against the veteran righty last week.

Snell. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Snell. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. TB) vs. LHP Blake Snell (vs. NYY)
Poor Blake Snell. I watched his last two starts, which included one against the Yankees, and the kid looks completely out of gas. I guess that’s not a surprise. He’s thrown a career high 144.1 innings. Snell has a 3.87 ERA (3.51 FIP) in 17 starts and 81.1 innings with the big league team. Good strikeout rate (23.9%), good homer rate (0.55 HR/9), bad walk rate (12.7%), bad ground ball rate (36.8%). His platoon split is pretty significant, so Joe Girardi should fill the lineup with righties. Snell sits in the mid-90s with his heater, and his array of offspeed pitches includes a mid-80s changeup, a low-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. The Yankees have seen the 23-year-old southpaw three times this year and they’ve had progressively more success each time: one run in five innings in April, two runs in 5.1 innings in July, and three runs in 2.2 innings last week. They forced Snell to throw 88 pitches in those 2.2 innings.

Bullpen Status

The Rays may not be carrying many bench players, but they sure have loaded up the bullpen. Cash has 13 relievers at his disposal at the moment. Here is his bullpen:

Closer: RHP Alex Colome (1.93 ERA/3.80 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Boxberger (3.72/5.21), LHP Xavier Cedeno (3.70/2.63)
Middle: RHP Danny Farquhar (3.16/4.86), RHP Kevin Jepsen (), LHP Enny Romero (5.74/4.42)
Long: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (3.71/4.77)
Extra: LHP Dana Eveland, RHP Eddie Gamboa, RHP Ryan Garton, RHP Steve Geltz, LHP Justin Marks, RHP Chase Whitley

Not the most intimidating bullpen, I’d say. Colome is very good in the ninth and Boxberger and Cedeno have their moments, but that’s a relief corps you can’t wait to get into. The Rays had an off-day yesterday like the Yankees, so those 13 guys are as fresh as they’re going to get. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Girardi’s relief crew.

9/15 to 9/18 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

And now, the final road trip of the season. It’s a big one too. Eleven games spanning 12 days and three cities. The trip starts tonight with the first of four in Boston. If you’re still hoping the Yankees will go on a run and win the AL East, this series is pretty much a must sweep. Thing aren’t quite that desperate in the wildcard race, but it’s close. The Yankees are 5-7 against the BoSox this season, including 2-4 at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

Last night the Red Sox lost only the fourth 1-0 game in Fenway Park since the start of the 2013 season. Mark Trumbo’s homer and Kevin Gausman’s brilliance did them in. Nice to see Gausman pitch well against a team other than the Yankees for once. Anyway, the BoSox have dropped their last two games but did win five of six prior to that. They’re 81-64 with a +169 run differential overall. That’s the third best record and first best run differential in the AL. Boston is in first place in the AL East; they’re one game up on the O’s, two up on the Blue Jays, and four up on the Yankees. And 19 up on the Rays, but no one cares about them anymore.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox have the best offense in baseball and the best offense by any team since the 2009 Yankees. These Red Sox are averaging 5.55 runs per game. The 2009 Yankees averaged 5.65 runs per game. Boston has a team 114 wRC+ and their only injured position players are 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder), IF Josh Rutledge (knee), and C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle). They all had season-ending surgeries.

Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Pedroia. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Manager John Farrell has changed up his lineup fairly recently. Nowadays 2B Dustin Pedroia (127 wRC+) leads off with SS Xander Bogaerts (111 wRC+) second, DH David Ortiz (161 wRC+) third, RF Mookie Betts (132 wRC+) fourth, and 1B Hanley Ramirez (121 wRC+) fifth. Farrell moved Betts down to better take advantage of his power. Pedroia is hitting .435/.461/.519 (164 wRC+) since moving to the leadoff spot last month, which is ridiculous. The top of that lineup is not fun at all.

Right now IF Aaron Hill (88 wRC+) and 1B/3B Travis Shaw (98 wRC+) are platooning at third while ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (139 wRC+) and C Sandy Leon (150 wRC+) are the everyday left fielder and catcher, respectively. Leon’s having an insane out-of-nowhere season, though he has cooled off of late, especially in the power department. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (120 wRC+) is back hitting eighth and ninth. Farrell likes Bradley hitting lower in the order because he acts as a second leadoff man.

UTIL Brock Holt (91 wRC+) and C Ryan Hanigan (18 wRC+) are the regular bench players, and it’s worth noting OF Andrew Benintendi (123 wRC+) recently came off the DL following a knee injury. He’s available but it sounds like the Red Sox don’t want to use him unless it’s an emergency, so he must not be 100% physically. C Bryan Holaday, C Christian Vazquez, IF Marco Hernandez, IF Deven Marrero, and IF Yoan Moncada are the September additions. Moncada has a 60.0% strikeout rate so far. See? The Yankees knew what they were doing all along.

The Red Sox are a good defensive team, particularly up the middle. Pedroia, Bradley, and Betts are all excellent in the field while Young and Bogaerts are good as well. Shaw and Hanley are liabilities on the corners though. We’ve seen it a few times firsthand this season. Leon and Hanigan are both strong defensive catchers. Leon’s thrown out 43% of attempted basestealers in his career, so don’t run on him.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. NYY)
Rodriguez, 23, has given the Yankees a lot of fits the last two years. He has an unsightly 4.70 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 16 starts and 88 innings this year, though it’s worth noting he’s been much better of late, pitching to a 2.63 ERA (3.48 FIP) in seven starts since the beginning of August. The peripherals across the board are not that great (19.0 K%, 8.6 BB%, 33.3 GB%, 1.53 HR/9), and his platoon split is small. Rodriguez sits in the mid-90s with his four-seamer and sinker, and his go-to secondary pitch is a quality upper-80s changeup. He’s thrown his mid-80s slider a little more often of late, though it’s still his worst pitch. The Yankees have faced the young southpaw twice this season, and he held them to one run in seven innings both times. Annoying!

Friday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Cessa (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
Man, what an awful season for Buchholz. He started the year in the rotation, got demoted to the bullpen, moved back to the rotation, got demoted again, and now he’s back in the rotation thanks to Steven Wright’s shoulder injury. The 32-year-old Buchholz has a 5.31 ERA (5.38 FIP) in 120.1 innings covering 18 starts and 16 relief appearances, and his numbers as a starter are ghastly: 5.71 ERA (5.76 FIP) with 16.0% strikeouts, 9.4% walks, 42.5% grounders, and 1.84 HR/9. Yikes. Lefties have hit him a lot harder than righties too. These days Buchholz sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his four-seamer and a tick below that with his cutter. A low-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball are his two non-fastballs. Amazingly, the Yankees have only seen Buchholz once this season. He came out of the bullpen last month, faced one batter, and got two outs. (Starlin Castro grounded into a double play.)

Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Price. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Saturday (1:05pm ET): RHP Bryan Mitchell (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
The Yankees didn’t see Price when these two teams played last month, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time Price did not start during a series against the Yankees in about six years. I haven’t bothered to look it up, but that sounds like it could be true. He never seems to miss them. Price, 31, has had an overall disappointing first season with the Red Sox (3.81 ERA and 3.36 FIP in 205.2 innings), though he has a 2.99 ERA (3.32 FIP) in the second half, and that’s the David Price we’re used to seeing. As usual, his strikeout (24.8%) and walk (5.2%) rates are excellent while his grounder (44.7%) and homer (1.05 HR/9) rates are worse than the league average. He’s always been a soft contact/pop-up guy. Price’s platoon split is small and his fastballs are still humming in the mid-90s. His cutter is a notch below that and it’s a nasty pitch he likes to backdoor to righties. A mid-80s changeup in his primary offspeed pitch, and he’ll also throw a few low-80s curves per start as well. The Yankees have seen Price three times this year: six runs in seven innings in May, six runs in 4.2 innings later in May, and three runs in 5.2 innings in July.

Sunday (8:00pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
In the grand scheme of things, the 27-year-old Pomeranz has had a breakout season in 2016, posting a 3.25 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 28 starts and 160.2 innings. He was a deserving All-Star too. Now, that said, his season can be broken down in 17 ace-caliber starts with the Padres (2.47 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 102 innings) and eleven meh starts with the Red Sox (4.60 ERA and 4.81 FIP in 58.2 innings). Not exactly what the BoSox were hoping for so far. Pomeranz has a great strikeout rate (26.8%) and a good ground ball rate (46.3%), though he walks too many (9.6%) and doesn’t limit dingers (1.12 HR/9). His homer rate with the Red Sox is 1.84 HR/9. Egads. Pomeranz has a negligible platoon split thanks mostly to his big upper-70s curveball and new-ish mid-80s cutter. He throws the curve about as often as he throws his low-90s four-seam fastball, so he uses it a lot. For whatever reason he’s more or less abandoned his changeup after the trade to Boston. The Yankees have seen Pomeranz twice this year. He held them to one run in seven innings while with the Padres back in July, then he held them to one run in 5.1 innings with the Red Sox last month.

Bullpen Status

(Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Kimbrel. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Boston’s rotation has turned things around a bit in the second half, though their bullpen remains a real weakness, especially in the middle innings. It’s no surprise then that they’re carrying 12 relievers thanks to expanded rosters. Might as well load up that bullpen, right? Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.78 ERA/2.65 FIP)
Setup: RHP Koji Uehara (4.05/3.69), RHP Brad Ziegler (2.37/3.11), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.33/3.16)
Middle: RHP Matt Barnes (4.19/3.68), LHP Fernando Abad (3.30/3.57), RHP Junichi Tazawa (4.44/4.51)
Extra: RHP Heath Hembree, RHP Joe Kelly, LHP Henry Owens, RHP Noe Ramirez, LHP Robbie Scott

Uehara missed close to two months with a pectoral injury and returned just last week. The Red Sox eased him back into things with low-leverage innings at first, but he’s back to being the primary eighth inning guy now. Ziegler isn’t necessarily the seventh inning guy. He’s more like the backup setup man. He pitches the eighth the days Uehara isn’t available.

Uehara was the only reliever used yesterday and he threw just 14 pitches. Farrell doesn’t like to use the 41-year-old on back-to-back days though, so Ziegler figures to be the eighth inning guy tonight. Hopefully the Red Sox don’t need him. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.