6/6 to 6/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Bogaerts & Benintendi. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Bogaerts & Benintendi. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

After a much-need day off, the Yankees are back to the AL East grindstone this evening. This is their third of four straight series against divisional opponents, and it will also determine who is in first place by the time the weekend rolls around. The Yankees are currently two games ahead of the Red Sox, with two games in hand.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees swept a two-game series in Boston on April 26-27; it was meant to be a three-game set, but the first game was rained-out (the first of three rainouts the Yankees have had thus far). Some notes:

  • Luis Severino was dominant in the first game, going 7 scoreless innings and striking out 6, while allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks. It was the longest scoreless outing of his career through that date (it was since surpassed, though, because he’s been awesome this year).
  • Aaron Judge celebrated his 25th birthday in that same game, and did so with a two-run home run and diving catch into the stands.
  • Pitching was the story in the second game, as well – Masahiro Tanaka tossed a complete game shutout, allowing 3 hits and no walks, striking out 3. It was a Maddux, as well, as he only needed 97 pitches. A two-to-one groundball to flyball ratio and 72% first-pitch strikes helped that effort quite a bit.
  • The Yankees and Red Sox combined for just twelve base-runners in that game, and all reached base via single.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still injury-riddled, as has been the case since Opening Day. Brock Holt, Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Rodriguez, Robbie Ross, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright are all on the disabled list, and none are expected to return during this series. Those last two are the worst cases by far, with Thornburg’s persistent shoulder injury leaving him with no clear timetable for return, and Wright being out for the year, having underwent season-ending knee surgery in May.

Their Story So Far

Boston was a .500 team as recently as May 21, on the heels of dropping three out of four to the lowly A’s. They’ve won 10 of 14 since then, outscoring their opponents 87 to 48 in that stretch. They’re currently 31-25 on the season, with a +38 run differential.

Injuries have been the story of their season, as one may suspect. The current disabled list only tells half the story – Jackie Bradley Jr., David Price (who didn’t pitch until May 29), and Pablo Sandoval spent time on the DL, too, and Xander Bogaerts, Sandy Leon, and Hanley Ramirez have dealt with nagging injuries for most of the year. We’ve yet to see this team at full-strength as a result.

For more specifics about the Red Sox, check out Over the Monster.

The Lineup We Might See

The Red Sox have settled into a mostly consistently lineup of late, though that’s largely due to Pedroia’s injury. Manager John Farrell has used the same one-through-six for three games in a row, and the bottom three is dependent upon who’s filling in for Pedroia and who’s catching for the day. We’ll probably see something like this:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  5. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  6. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  7. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
  8. Christian Vazquez, C or Sandy Leon, C
  9. Deven Marrero, 2B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

It’s been something of a rough 2017 for Pomeranz, as the 28-year-old southpaw had a late start to the season due to a flexor strain, and left a start early in mid-May with triceps tightness. He only missed a start or two overall, but it has taken him awhile to right the ship. That being said, he currently sports an elite strikeout rate (11.3 K/9, 29.0 K%) and a solid walk rate (7.7%), and his 3.58 FIP/3.25 xFIP suggest that his 4.24 ERA (106 ERA+) should come back down.

Pomeranz is basically a two-pitch guy, as his low-90s four-seamer and big breaking curveball account for over 90% of his pitches. He throws a mid-80s cutter and a low-80s change-up every so often, but those are little more than show-me pitches.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 5/31) – 7.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Rick Porcello

Porcello struggled in April, closing out the month with a 4.75 ERA/4.40 FIP. He has pitched better since the calendar flipped to May, but he still doesn’t look like the guy that won the Cy Young last year. As of this writing he has the lowest groundball rate of his career (37.9% against a previous low of 43.1%), and he’s allowing a 42.7% hard contact rate (a career-worst by 9.9 percentage points). That hard-hit percentage is the second-worst in the majors right now.

His pitch selection hasn’t changed all that much this year, as Porcello is still throwing his four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, curve, and change-up; his velocity is similar across the board, as well. That being said, his fastball and change-up have been hit hardest as per PITCHf/x, so there could be something going on with his mechanics.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/2) – 6.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Thursday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. LHP David Price

An elbow injury in Spring Training kept Price out of action until last week, which was far and away his longest stint on the disabled list. He showed little rust in his first two starts, though, with his velocity being higher than it was last season on all of his offerings. There’s not much else I can tell you about Price that you aren’t already overwhelmingly familiar with, given that he’s thrown 1460 IP for AL East teams.

Price throws three fastballs (mid-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, high-80s cutter) and a mid-80s change-up, mixing all four pitches extremely well. He’ll throw a knuckle-curve once or twice a game to change a batter’s eye level, but he’s mostly a fastball/change-up guy.

Last Outing (vs. BAL on 6/3) – 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 K

The Bullpen

Relief pitching has been a strength for the Red Sox, even with Smith and Thornburg sitting on the DL since Opening Day. Closer Craig Kimbrel is having what may be the best season of his career, with staggering strikeout (53.3%) and walk (4.4%) rates, and a sparkling 1.07 ERA (423 ERA+) in 25.1 IP. Set-up man Joe Kelly (1.48 ERA in 24.1 IP) and LOOGY Robby Scott (1.42 ERA in 12.2 IP) have been brilliant in their roles, and middle relievers Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes, and Heath Hembree have been effective, as well.

Thanks to Monday’s off day, the Red Sox bullpen is fairly well-rested.

Yankees Connection

As was the case last time these two met, Chris Young is the only former Yankee on this Red Sox team. Let’s remember the good times, shall we?

Who (Or What) To Watch?

The Yankees have owned David Price for the better part of his career – he has a 4.55 ERA in 221.1 IP against the Yankees, and a 3.01 ERA in 1462.1 IP against everyone else. That doesn’t make me excited to see him, given that he’s a legitimate ace – but it almost always adds an interesting narrative to the match-up at hand.

4/25 to 4/27 Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)
(Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are heading up to Boston for their first meeting with the Red Sox in 2017. It only seems as though the Red Sox are always either the last team they played, or the next team they will play – but it just so happens to be true this time around. This will be the only time the teams meet in the first two months of the season, as they won’t square-off again until June 6 in Yankee Stadium.

The Last Time They Met

In the penultimate series of the 2016 season, the Yankees hosted the Red Sox for a three-game set beginning September 27, and the good guys walked away with the sweep. That sweep had precious little impact on the Yankees season; however, it did help to bump the Red Sox down to third in the American League, costing them homefield advantage in the ALDS, where they were swept by the Indians.  We can call that a tiny victory. Some other notes:

  • Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius both reached the 20 home run mark in the first game of the series.
  • Mark Teixeira hit the final home run of his career in the second game of the series – a walk-off grand slam to right-center. It may well be the most memorable home run of his stint with the Yankees, and it was a hell of a way to put a stamp on his career as a whole.
  • That second game was incredible in general, as the Yankees went into the bottom of the 9th trailing 3-0, with only four men reaching base (a single and three walks) in the first eight innings. Craig Kimbrel’s ERA jumped from 2.65 to 3.35 thanks to Teixeira and Co.
  • CC Sabathia had one of his best starts of the season in the last game of the series, posting the following line – 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K. He struck out the first four batters he faced, as well, in Aaron Hill, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ortiz.
  • Speaking of which – Ortiz went 0-for-10 with 2 BB in his last visit to the Bronx.

Injury Report

David Price (forearm/elbow soreness), Tyler Thornburg (shoulder soreness), Carson Smith (recovering from Tommy John Surgery), Brock Holt (vertigo), Pablo Sandoval (knee), and Roenis Elias (oblique strain) are all on the disabled list, and none are slated to be ready for this series. The timetables for Price, Thornburg, Smith, and Elias are somewhat unclear, though Price did throw a 30-pitch bullpen session on April 21.

There is also a chance that Dustin Pedroia could miss some time, due to swelling in his knee and ankle resulting from a hard slide by Manny Machado on Friday night. He had to be helped off the field following the collision, and sat on both Saturday and Sunday, and is currently considered day-to-day.

Their Story So Far

Injuries have plagued the Red Sox in 2017, as one might guess from their current disabled list. That doesn’t tell the whole story, though, as Jackie Bradley Jr. just returned from the DL, and Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez are dealing with nagging injuries that have held them out of the lineup. Their depth has been tested quite a bit already, but they’ve managed to keep their collective head above water (they’re currently 11-8 with a +3 run differential).

The Lineup We Might See

The Red Sox lineup has seen a great deal of mixing and matching, and that stems from the injuries. Manager John Farrell isn’t known for platooning or riding the hot hand, so it’s fairly safe to say that the lineup will look like this if Pedroia can suit up:

  1. Pedroia, 2B
  2. Benintendi, LF
  3. Mookie Betts, RF
  4. Ramirez, DH
  5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  6. Bogaerts, SS
  7. Bradley, CF
  8. Marco Hernandez, 3B
  9. Sandy Leon/Christian Vazquez, C

If Pedroia sits, the Yankee pitching staff will probably see something along these lines:

  1. Bogaerts, SS
  2. Benintendi, LF
  3. Betts, RF
  4. Ramirez, DH
  5. Moreland, 1B
  6. Bradley, CF
  7. Hernandez, 2B
  8. Leon/Vazquez, C
  9. Josh Rutledge, 2B

The Pitchers We Will See

Wednesday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Rick Porcello

It has been a less than ideal start to Porcello’s defense of his Cy Young award, as the 28-year-old has allowed at least three runs in each of his four starts. (As an aside, am I the only one who continuously forgets that Porcello is so young? This is his ninth season in the majors, and he’s thrown just shy of 1500 IP.) His peripherals remain strong – particularly his 21.1 K% and 4.6 BB% – but he’s been hit hard (only seven pitchers have surrendered a higher hard-hit percentage), and it shows in his 5.32 ERA and 1.90 HR/9.

Porcello is a true five offering pitcher, with a couple of low-90s fastballs, a slider, a curveball, and a change-up. He usually racks up grounders with the fastball, and picks up whiffs on the slider and change piece.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 4/19) – 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K

Thursday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP Chris Sale

The Red Sox paid a king’s ransom for Sale this off-season, and he has been well worth the price thus far. His line to date: 29.2 IP, 15 H, 6 BB, 42 K, 0.91 ERA, 1.10 FIP, 1.5 fWAR. Sale’s obscene 38.9% strikeout rate leads the majors, as does his 33.3 K-BB%. There was some concern about his dip in velocity and strikeouts last season, but pitching to contact and saving some stress was the game plan in 2016 – this year’s strategy seems to be making opposing hitters look foolish.

Sale throws two low-to-mid 90s fastballs (a four-seamer and a two-seamer), a mid-80s change-up, and a high-70s slider that may well be illegal in some jurisdictions. He generates whiffs on all four pitches, to boot.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 4/20) – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K

The Bullpen

The Red Sox acquired Carson Smith to be the set-up man last year, and he pitched three games before going under the knife. They picked-up Tyler Thornburg to fill that role in 2017, and he has yet to pitch due to a shoulder issue. Their bullpen nevertheless remains fairly stout, with Craig Kimbrel closing, and Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly doing a fine job in the middle innings. The group as a whole sports a 2.21 ERA, and most everyone should be available for the upcoming series due to Monday’s off-day.

Yankees Connection

These two teams rarely come together as trade partners, and understandably so. As a result of this, OF Chris Young is the only former Yankee on the Red Sox roster. He’s currently batting .225/.344/.283 (82 wRC+) in part-time duty, after putting up a solid 125 wRC+ in a similar role in 2016. Also, hitting coach Chili Davis played for the Yankees in 1998 and 1999, and third base coach Brian Butterfield spent many years with the Yankees in many different capacities.

The Yankees have two former Red Sox on the roster in Jacoby Ellsbury and Tommy Layne.

Who (Or What) To Watch

If the season ended today, Andrew Benintendi might just be Aaron Judge‘s chief competition for Rookie of the Year. The 22-year-old is currently batting .347/.415/.444 (146 wRC+) with a 8.5 BB% and 12.2 K%. He’s also reached base safely in 16 of 18 games thus far. As much as I would like to mock his lack of power, he has some of the best pure bat-to-ball skills around right now. Between Benintendi, Bradley, and Betts, the Red Sox have three young and very good outfielders that are sure to frustrate the lot of us for the next several years.

Tuesday Notes: Tanaka, WBC, London, Stottlemyre, ESPN

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
Tanaka at the 2013 WBC. (Koji Watanabe/Getty)

We are right smack in the middle of the slowest time of the offseason. The baseball world is essentially on hold during the holidays, before the bargain shopping begins in January. Here are some bits of news to check out in the meantime.

Tanaka not on partial WBC roster

Team Japan has announced the first 19 players of their 28-man roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, reports Jason Coskrey, and Masahiro Tanaka is not among those 19 players. Outfielder Nori Aoki is the only MLB player on the roster. Two-way star Shohei Otani is the headliner, obviously. Final rosters are due sometime in January, which ain’t so far away anymore.

“Regarding MLB players, we are not going to announce where we are (in talks) and it’s all going to be announced when we actually announce (the final roster),” said Japan baseball secretary general Atsushi Ihara to Coskrey. “We don’t really have the timetable, but manager (Hiroki) Kokubo is saying that he wants to set it early.”

Tanaka, who pitched in both the 2009 and 2013 WBCs, has said he wants to pitch in the 2017 edition. The Yankees can’t stop their ace from participating. Brian Cashman confirmed it. Team Japan did not take MLB players in the last WBC, not even Ichiro, but Ihara’s comments and the fact Aoki is the on the roster suggests they’ll look to take a few this time around. We’ll see what happens with Tanaka.

Yankees, Red Sox could be headed to London

According to Michael Silverman, the Yankees and Red Sox could be headed to London to play a series next season. Hal Steinbrenner and Red Sox owner John Henry have been discussing the possibility for several years now. MLB has been looking to grow the game globally and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement includes provisions to play games outside the country.

“The Yankees have been at the forefront of suggesting that we bring the great game of baseball to London,” said Yankees president Randy Levine to Silverman. “There have been some meaningful attempts to do so, and we are hopeful and confident that we can play there soon. Playing the Red Sox in London would be a special and unique event.”

It’s no surprise the Yankees and Red Sox may end up playing overseas. They’re still baseball’s premier rivalry and will generate the most buzz. There are a ton of logistical issues to work out though. There’s the travel, first and foremost, and also the issue of gate receipts. One of the two teams is going to lose a handful of home games and associated revenue. Still, the Yankees playing in London would be pretty damn cool.

Stottlemyre doing better after health scare

Mel Stottlemyre, former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach, is doing better following a health scare last week, his wife Jean told John Harper. Mel’s son Todd wrote on Facebook his father was “in the hospital fighting for his life” last Friday. Stottlemyre has been fighting multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, since 2000.

“He’s doing much better. We saw a big turnaround with Mel over the last 24 hours. He’s not in a life-threatening situation right now,” said Jean Stottlemyre to Harper. “It’s not the cancer. It was that he got sick from the chemo medicine. He was given antibiotics to fight infection and he’s responded well.”

Stottlemyre, who turned 75 last month, spent his entire playing career with the Yankees from 1964-74. Those were the “dark years” of the franchise, so Mel never did win a World Series as a player. He won his first ring as Mets pitching coach in 1986, and he added four titles as Yankees pitching coach from 1996-2005. Last year the Yankees surprised Stottlemyre with a plaque in Monument Park. It was one of the best moments of the season.

It was unclear whether Stottlemyre’s health would even allow him to make the trip from his home in Washington to Yankee Stadium for Old Timers’ Day last year. I’m glad to hear he’s doing well after that health scare last week. He’s been fighting cancer for close to two decades now, and he’s kicking its butt even at age 75. Go Mel.

Yankees to play four times on ESPN

A few days ago ESPN released their Sunday Night Baseball schedule for most of the first half, and, not surprisingly, the Yankees are featured more than a few times. They’re still a great draw. Here’s the schedule and here are the Sunday night broadcasts that will feature the Yankees:

  • April 16th: Cardinals at Yankees
  • May 7th: Yankees at Cubs
  • May 14th: Astros at Yankees
  • July 16th: Yankees at Red Sox

That May 14th game is the night the Yankees are retiring Derek Jeter’s number, though I’m not sure whether ESPN will show the ceremony. Probably not. YES will air the entire thing, I’m sure. As a reminder, the Yankees are going to play the very first game of 2017 on ESPN. They begin the season at 1pm ET on Sunday, April 2nd, on the road against the Rays. The next game that day begins at 4pm ET.

Few potential landing spots remain for Chase Headley

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

So far this offseason has been about addition and subtraction for the Yankees. They added Matt Holliday and Aroldis Chapman to improve the roster, but also subtracted Brian McCann to continue their rebuilding transitioning effort. The McCann trade with the Astros cleared up some payroll space and also netted the team two high upside Single-A pitching prospects.

The Yankees are still in addition and subtraction mode, based on everything we’ve heard the last few weeks. They still want to add pitching, starters and relievers, but they’re also looking to trade veterans. Specifically Brett Gardner and Chase Headley, who are basically their last two tradeable veteran position players. The Dexter Fowler and Adam Eaton deals mean not many suitors exist for Gardner.

For Headley, the market is appears to be even more limited, which is kinda weird because it’s much harder to find decent third base help than it is decent corner outfield help. In theory, anyway. Justin Turner has re-signed with the Dodgers, taking by far the best free agent third baseman off the market. Luis Valbuena is all that remains at this point, and he’s coming back from hamstring surgery.

Brian Cashman said at the Winter Meetings last week that he has rejected trade offers for Headley, though we don’t know the nature of those offers. They could have been “we’ll give you this fringe prospect if you eat a bunch of money” non-offers for all we know. Or maybe there were no offers and Cashman was trying to drum up interest. Who knows? Here are the few potential landing spots I’ve identified for Headley.

Atlanta Braves

Adonis. (Michael Thomas/Getty)
Adonis. (Michael Thomas/Getty)

Current Third Basemen: Adonis Garcia and Sean Rodriguez

Why Would They Want Headley? The Braves are doing all they can to be somewhat competitive next season, when they open SunTrust Park. They’ve signed R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon as free agents, and traded for Jaime Garcia to beef up the rotation. Third base is another problem area. Rodriguez was signed to be a utility player, and Garcia, the ex-Yankees farmhand, was worth +0.9 fWAR and +0.2 bWAR in close to a full season of playing time in 2016, so yeah.

Headley is not all that expensive by today’s standards, plus I’m sure the Yankees are at least open to the idea of eating some of the $26M he’s owed the next two years, so he’d be another low risk short-term upgrade for the Braves a la Colon and Dickey and Garcia. Rio Ruiz, who I covered in a Scouting The Market post earlier this winter, is their top third base prospect and there’s a chance he won’t be a third baseman at all. Headley’s an easy upgrade for Atlanta.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. The doesn’t mean the Braves want to trade for Headley, necessarily, but he would fit their roster and current plan.

Boston Red Sox

Current Third Basemen: Pablo Sandoval and Brock Holt

Why Would They Want Headley? The BoSox traded their starting third baseman (Travis Shaw) and third baseman of the future (Yoan Moncada) this offseason, leaving them with short and long-term openings at the hot corner. Sandoval is coming back from major shoulder surgery and was terrible last time he played. Holt fits best as a part-time utility guy, not a full-time corner infielder.

So Are They A Fit? Nah. Not realistically. Even beyond the unlikelihood of a Yankees-Red Sox trade, the Red Sox are probably best off seeing what they have in Sandoval at this point. They owe him a ton of money and it’s not going away.

St. Louis Cardinals

Current Third Baseman: Jhonny Peralta

Why Would They Want Headley? The Cardinals were in on Turner before he re-signed with the Dodgers because they’re looking for ways to improve their infield, especially defensively. Peralta really struggled at the hot corner this past season after losing his shortstop job to Aledmys Diaz. Matt Carpenter is moving to first base full-time for defensive reasons, and Headley would be an upgrade over Peralta at the hot corner. Pretty easily at this point of Peralta’s career too.

Peralta. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Peralta. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

So Are They A Fit? Yes, though I don’t think St. Louis is as gung-ho about adding a third baseman now that Turner is off the board. It seems like their thinking was “we can add Turner for just cash, and we’ve already given up out first rounder for Fowler, so let’s do it.” Trading pieces for Headley and then having to find a new home for Peralta might not be worth the trouble for the Cardinals.

San Francisco Giants

Current Third Baseman: Eduardo Nunez

Why Would They Want Headley? Like the Cardinals, the Giants dabbled in the market for Turner a few weeks ago, they were never as all-in as St. Louis. San Francisco has also reportedly considered a reunion with Sandoval, assuming they could get him from the Red Sox at an extremely discounted price. Third base help isn’t necessarily a top priority, though based on the rumors, the Giants do seem to be keeping an eye out for an upgrade over Nunez.

So Are They A Fit? Eh, maybe. The Giants are over the luxury tax threshold following the Mark Melancon signing, and they reportedly do not want to add significant payroll. That would stand in the way of a Headley trade, even if the Yankees ate some money. Also, left field is their biggest roster hole. If they’re going to take on dollars and go further over the luxury tax threshold, it’ll be for outfield help, not a marginal upgrade over Nunez at third.

* * *

Keep in mind trading Headley means the Yankees would have to come up with a replacement third baseman. They have plenty of outfielders to plug into left field should Gardner be traded, but they don’t have a ready made replacement third baseman. Ronald Torreyes and the recently signed Ruben Tejada would be the front-runners for the job. Maybe Rob Refsnyder too. Not great.

The Yankees are still trying to contend next season while continuing to get younger — you don’t sign a closer to an $86M contract and not plan on contending right away — and they’ll need competence at the hot corner themselves. Headley provides that. More than that, really, even if many fans don’t seem to want to admit it. If the Yankees can trade Headley for some prospects and salary relief, great. But they’ll likely be a worse team on the field afterwards, and based on their other offseason activity, that might not fly.

Yankeemetrics: A bittersweet sweep [Sept. 27-29]

(AP)
(AP)

Still breathing
The Yankees staved off elimination on Tuesday night with a gutsy 6-4 win in the series opener, keeping their flickering postseason dreams alive, while snapping Boston’s 11-game win streak. This was the third time in the history of this rivalry that the Yankees beat a Red Sox team riding a win streak of more than 10 games; it also happened in 1909 and 1995.

The Baby Bombers carried the team from start to finish, delivering game-changing performances on the mound and at the plate. Luis Cessa pitched six strong innings of two-run ball, while Gary Sanchez opened the scoring with a first-inning two-run bomb and Tyler Austin capped it off with a tie-breaking two-run homer in the seventh.

Sanchez’s 407-foot shot was a historic one, the 20th time he went deep in just 51 MLB games. That matched the fewest career games needed to reach the 20-homer milestone by any major-league player, a mark he shares with outfielder Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves.

He is the 10th rookie catcher in major-league history to hit 20 homers, and is the only Yankee in that group. Each of the other nine players — Wilin Rosario (2012), J.P. Arencibia (2011), Geovany Soto (2008), Mike Piazza (1993), Matt Nokes (1987), Joe Ferguson (1973), Carlton Fisk (1972), Earl Williams (1971), Rudy York (1937) — played at least 100 games during their rookie campaign.

Austin’s power-hitting feats haven’t been as prolific as Sanchez’s, but it’s hard to argue that anyone else’s homers on this team have been as impactful as Austin’s.

Each of his first four homers in the big leagues have given the Yankees a lead, with three of them coming in the seventh inning or later. Through Tuesday, he had more go-ahead, late-inning homers than any other Yankee this season, despite logging time in just 27 games since his call-up in early August.

Didi Gregorius also joined the homer party, ripping his 20th homer of the season into the right field seats to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead in the sixth. He and Starlin Castro are the first middle infielder duo (i.e., primary position is either shortstop or second base) in franchise history to reach the 20-homer milestone in the same season.

David Ortiz, playing his final series at Yankee Stadium, was hitless in five at-bats and whiffed on a 3-2 splitter from Tyler Clippard to end the game, stranding two guys in the ninth inning. This was his 255th career game against the Yankees (including playoffs), but it was the first time that he ever struck out to end the game with the tying run on base.

(AP)
(AP)

Refuse to lose
Down to their final out and on the brink of being officially eliminated from the postseason race on Wednesday, the Yankees rose from the dead with a stunning rally in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Red Sox, keeping their microscopic October dreams alive for another 24 hours.

In a season filled with so many heart-pounding victories, the Yankees 82nd win of the season might top them all in terms of the do-or-die circumstances of the game and the sheer miraculous nature of their comeback.

Trailing 3-1 with two outs in the ninth and the bases full, the soon-to-be-retired Mark Teixeira came to the plate and drilled a 99-mph fastball over the fences in center field for a game-ending homer that was historic in so many ways:

  • It was the first regular-season walk-off home run by Teixeira; his 408 career regular season homers entering the game were the most of any player in baseball history who’d never hit a walk-off shot.
  • The pitch was clocked at 98.95 mph, the fastest pitch he’s hit for a home run since July 17, 2009 when he went deep off a 99.0 mph fastball from Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya.
  • It was the ninth walk-off grand slam in franchise history, and the first since A-Rod’s memorable blast against the Orioles on April 7, 2007.
  • Only two other Yankees have ever hit a walk-off homer with the bases loaded against the Red Sox: Charlie Keller on August 12, 1942 and pitcher Red Ruffing on April 14, 1933.
  • Teixeira is the fourth Yankee to hit a walk-off slam with his team trailing at the time. The others are A-Rod, Jason Giambi (May 17, 2002 vs. the Twins) and Babe Ruth (Sept. 24, 1925 vs. the White Sox).
  • Teixeira and A-Rod are the only players in franchise history to hit a two-out, come-from-behind walk-off grand slam.
tex champ belt
(Getty)

Forgotten amid the wild and crazy ending is the fact that this was a classic pitchers duel for much of the night. Bryan Mitchell and Clay Buchholz matched zeroes on the scoreboard, as Mitchell threw seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits while Buchholz gave up one hit over six shutout innings.

It was just the third time since at least 1913 where both starters in a Yankee game went six or more innings, didn’t allow a run and surrendered two or fewer hits. The other two instances were on June 18, 2003 against the Rays (Roger Clemens and Victor Zambrano), and Sept. 20, 1958 against the Orioles (Don Larsen and Hoyt Wilhelm).

Good news, bad news
It was a bittersweet win for the Yankees on Thursday, as they completed the sweep over the Red Sox, but saw their playoff dreams extinguished too thanks to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays earlier in the night. Baltimore’s victory also guaranteed that the Yankees will end the season in fourth place in the AL East, their lowest divisional finish since 1992.

David Ortiz said goodbye to the Yankees after going 0-for-1 with a walk in his two plate appearances in the series finale. His 53 home runs against the Yankees are tied with Hank Greenberg for the fourth-most all-time, and his 31 homers at Yankee Stadium are tied with Mickey Vernon for the second-most ever by a visiting player at the ballpark.

Although he’s tormented them over the past decade-plus, Ortiz went hitless in his final 14 at-bats against the Yankees, matching his longest stretch without a hit in this rivalry (also from Sept. 25, 2009 to April 7, 2010).

Making his 30th and final start of the season, CC Sabathia turned in a stellar performance, holding the Red Sox lineup to one run on four hits in seven-plus dominant innings. He earned his 223rd career win, passing former Mets southpaw Jerry Koosman for sole possession of 17th place among left-handed pitchers on MLB’s all-time wins leaderboard. Looking ahead to 2017, next up on the list of lefties is Whitey Ford, who won 236 games in his 16-season career.

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.

Yankeemetrics: Nightmare at Fenway Park [Sept. 15-18]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Speechless
Just when you started to believe in this plucky, underdog team with a nothing-to-lose mentality and pinstripes on its uniforms … Thursday night happened.

The Yankees suffered their most devastating loss of the season, blowing a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning — they were two strikes away from a win — and losing in truly heartbreaking fashion when Dellin Betances served up a walk-off home run to Hanley Ramirez.

In the long history of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, this was just the third time that a Yankee pitcher coughed up a game-ending home run with the lead and one out to go.

The most recent game came on June 30, 1953 when Sammie White hit a two-run shot off Allie Reynolds in the bottom of the ninth to give Boston a 5-4 win; the first instance was August 7, 1935 when Joe Cronin took Johnny Broaca deep to turn a 5-3 Yankee advantage into a 6-5 loss.

The deflating defeat becomes even more depressing and soul-wrenching given that the Yankees also wasted an absolute gem by Masahiro Tanaka.

The right-hander added another chapter to his Cy Young resume with a stellar one-run, seven-inning performance against the league’s most potent lineup. It was his ninth start of at least seven innings and no more than one earned run allowed, a number that led all American League pitchers through Thursday’s slate.

The brilliant outing lowered his ERA to 2.97, pushing Tanaka past Chris Sale to the top of the AL leaderboard. If he can keep up this pace, he’d be the first Yankee to lead the league in ERA since Rudy May in 1980. And no Yankee has qualified for the ERA title with a sub-3.00 ERA since David Cone (2.82) and Andy Pettitte (2.88) in 1997.

He dominated the Red Sox batters not with his typical nasty, swing-and-miss stuff, but rather with an aggressive, pitch-to-contact approach. He located his off-speed pitches at the knees and pounded the edges of the strike zone with his fastball, generating a personal-best 15 ground ball outs while failing to record a strikeout for the first time in his MLB career.

Tanaka’s streak of 73 straight games with at least one punchout to begin his major-league career was the second-longest by any Yankee, behind only Dave Righetti (88 games). He’s also the first Yankee to go at least seven innings without striking out a batter in a game since Andy Pettitte on April 21, 2009 vs. the A’s and the first to do it against the Red Sox since Tommy John on June 25, 1980.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Different story, same result
The Yankees took another beating from the Red Sox on Friday night, losing again but this time with much less drama and in more conventional fashion: The Yankees fell behind early, their inexperienced middle relief arms put them in a deeper hole, and the bats wasted numerous scoring opportunities in an attempt to come back from a too-big deficit.

Following their pathetic 1-for-11 performance with runners in scoring position on Friday night, their season batting average in that situation fell to .231, which is by far the lowest among all AL teams this season and would be the worst by any Yankee team since 1969 (.224).

The offense was shut down by Boston’s Clay Buchholz, a pitcher that the Yankees had routinely pounded in the past. He entered Friday’s start with a 6.19 ERA in 18 career games (17 starts) versus the Yankees, the third-highest among all active pitchers with at least 60 innings pitched against them.

Snatching defeat from the arms of victory, again
The Yankees sudden and swift free fall in the playoff race continued on Saturday afternoon, enduring yet another excruciating loss while sinking further and further in the standings.

(AP Sports)
(AP Sports)

Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead when he clobbered a 95-mph fastball over the Green Monster. It went an estimated 407 feet, the 12th time he’s hit a ball at least 400 feet. From his call-up on August 3 and through Saturday, only one player (Brian Dozier) hit more 400-foot batted balls than Sanchez.

Milestone alert: Brett Gardner’s RBI triple in the third inning was his 50th career three-bagger. He is the only Yankee to pile up at least 50 triples, 50 homers and 200 stolen bases within his first nine major-league seasons.

Just seven other AL outfielders in baseball history have achieved the feat: Carl Crawford, Ichiro, Johnny Damon, Kenny Lofton, Brady Anderson, Lloyd Moseby and Ben Chapman.

That was fun while it lasted …
Hello coffin, meet nail.

Yes, the Yankees are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, but their improbable quest for a postseason berth is now on life support and it will take a near-miracle to earn a ticket to the October party. Nearly all the momentum and ground they’d gained during their magical seven-game win streak has been nullified in the blink of an eye, as they’ve gone from postseason contenders to pretenders in less than a week.

The latest horrible loss capped off an absolutely crushing sweep in Boston, the first time the Yankees have been swept in a four-game series by the Red Sox since June 4-7, 1990. [The Stump Merrill era began during that series when he replaced Bucky Dent as manager after the second of the four losses.]

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to suggest that Fenway Park has become the latest “house of horrors” for the Yankees, who finished with a record of 2-8 at the ballpark, the most losses by a Yankee team there since they went 1-8 in 1973.

And finally … Let’s end on a positive note: Gary Sanchez’s assault on American League pitching continued with his 16th homer of the year (in 159 at-bats), a blast to left field that put the Yankees up 2-0 in the third inning. Sanchez’s incredible rate of 9.94 at-bats per homer would be the best by any Yankee in a single season since Roger Maris (9.67) and Mickey Mantle (9.52) waged their epic home run battle in 1961.

While Sanchez is best known for his tape-measure bombs, he’s also the rare young slugger who hits for average. After going 3-for-5 on Sunday night, he’s now hitting .327 this year, and is on pace to join Joe DiMaggio (1936) as the only Yankees to have a rookie season with at least 15 homers and a .300-plus batting average.