8/11 to 8/13 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Hanley Ramirez & Rafael Devers. (Charles Krupa/AP)
Hanley Ramirez and Rafael Devers. (Charles Krupa/AP)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees opened their second-half by splitting a four-game series in Boston. All four games were decided by three runs or less, including a walk-off walk in game one, and a sixteen-inning affair in game two. And, as per usual, only one game checked-in at under three hours – and that game went two hours and fifty-nine minutes. Some notes:

  • Poor defense and erratic pitching from Aroldis Chapman cost the Yankees game one. Mookie Betts singled, Dustin Pedroia singled, Xander Bogaerts reached on an error (scoring Betts), Hanley Ramirez was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Andrew Benintendi walked on five pitches to score Pedroia. And I distinctly remember being more angry at the IBB than anything else.
  • The bullpen (Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve, Adam Warren, Jonathan Holder, Chapman, Ben Heller) combined for a complete game shutout in game two, pitching to the following line – 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. The Yankees won 4-1 in 16 innings.
  • By winning the third game, the Yankees won back-to-back games for the first time in over a month. That wasn’t a fun stretch.
  • In the final game of the series, Aaron Judge was robbed of a home run by Jackie Bradley Jr. I would have been impressed if I wasn’t so annoyed.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun facts.

Injury Report

As has been the case throughout the season, the Red Sox simply aren’t all that healthy. David Price is back on the DL with left elbow inflammation, Carson Smith is still recovering from last year’s Tommy John Surgery, and Tyler Thornburg and Steven Wright are both done for the season. The offense is relatively healthy, though, with only bench players Marco Hernandez and Josh Rutledge currently sidelined with injuries. Though, it is worth noting that Dustin Pedroia is day-to-day with a tweaked knee, just a couple of days after returning from the DL.

Their Story So Far

Boston is currently in first place in the AL East, sitting at 65-49 with a +85 run differential. They’ve won 8 in a row by a combined score of 50 to 25, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that they’re playing their best baseball right now – which just so happens to coincide with the call-up of top prospect Rafael Devers. The basic sports narrative will credit Devers with the turnaround, which is a bit unfair – but the 20-year-old is hitting .319/.396/.553 (150 wRC+) with 3 HR in 12 games, and has been a key component of a resurgent offense.

And offense has been the problem for the Red Sox this season, even with all of the injuries to their pitching staff. Their 93 wRC+ places them 20th in all of baseball, with Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley, and Benintendi disappointing for the majority of the year. There is a great deal of talent here, of course, and that’s why they’re back in first place. Ugh.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager John Farrell has been tinkering with the lineup quite a bit of late, due mostly to the call-up of Devers and the acquisition of former Yankee Eduardo Nunez. The recent return Dustin Pedroia has led to some flip-flopping, as well. Nevertheless, I expect that we’ll see something like this:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Eduardo Nunez, 2B
  3. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  4. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  5. Rafael Devers, 3B
  6. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  7. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  8. Sandy Leon, C / Christian Vazquez, C
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Pedroia is the wild card in this situation. If he plays, he’ll bat near the top of the order, pushing everyone down. He might also DH, which would push Moreland to the bench and Ramirez to first.

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez was on the disabled list the last time these teams met, with a right knee injury sidelining him from June 2 to July 17. He has been solid when healthy, though, pitching to a 4.08 ERA (112 ERA+) in 81.2 IP, with a well above-average 25.8% strikeout rate. He’s a bit walk (3.5 BB/9) and home run (1.3 HR/9) prone, and he’s one of the more severe flyball pitches in the league, with just 34.2% of batted balls being on the ground.

The 24-year-old southpaw throws five pitches, but the vast majority of those are his four-seam fastball, which sits right around 93 MPH. His primary off-speed pitch is a solid mid-80s change-up, and he’ll mix in a low-90s sinker, a mid-80s cutter, and a low-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 8/4) – 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz had a rocky first couple of months, but he has been quite good since the calendar flipped to June, pitching to a 2.71 ERA over 69.2 IP in his last 12 starts. He has a 3.36 ERA (136 ERA+) on the season, and he’s currently 10th in the American League in fWAR. The Yankees handed him his worst start in about two months the last time they faced, scoring four runs in 6 innings on July 14.

Last Outing (vs. CHW on 8/5) – 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K

Sunday (8:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Chris Sale

Sale is currently leading the majors – hitters and pitchers, alike – in FanGraphs’ version of WAR. Baseball-Reference paints a much more modest portrait, ranking him third among all pitchers; either way, he has an argument for being the best pitcher in baseball right now. The 28-year-old also leads the majors in IP, K%, K-BB%, and FIP (by nearly half a run), as well as fourth in BB%. He dominated the Yankees the last time they squared-off, going 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 13.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 8/8) – 8.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 13 K

The Bullpen

Boston’s bullpen has been a strength for the entirety of the season, and they managed to improve it at the deadline by adding Addison Reed. The group leads the majors in park-adjusted ERA and RA9-WAR, and ranks second (behind the Yankees) in fWAR.

The absurdly good Craig Kimbrel is the team’s closer, and he’s striking out 50% of the batters he faces, while walking just 4.4%. He’s tied (with teammate and set-up man Joe Kelly) for third among MLB relievers in park-adjusted ERA, as well. Kelly and the newly acquired Reed handle the set-up duties, and Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, and Blaine Boyer take the higher-leverage middle inning duties.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Rafael Devers was a consensus top-20 prospect heading into the season, and he has shown why by tearing through Double-A and Triple-A this year, and reaching the majors a few months shy of his 21st birthday. He’s worth watching purely in an “I want to see what this guy’s all about” way, while also recognizing that he’s going to be a big part of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry for years to come.

Sabathia’s injury gives Yankees a chance to line up their best starters for the upcoming Red Sox series

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

This weekend the Yankees will play their most important series of the season (to date), as they’ll host the first place Red Sox for a three-game set at Yankee Stadium. At worst, the Yankees will be six games back in the AL East at the start of the series. At best they’ll be two games back. There’s still more than seven weeks to go in the regular season, but the remaining head-to-head games against Boston are more or less going to decide the division title.

The Red Sox have already announced that Chris Sale will start in every remaining series against the Yankees, which isn’t surprising. The Yankees are actually 2-0 when facing Sale this season. Masahiro Tanaka threw the shutout against Sale in April, then the Yankees won that long 16-inning marathon last month after Matt Holliday‘s game-tying home run against Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.

Anyway, here are the tentative pitching matchups for this weekend’s series against the Red Sox. Teams usually don’t make their starters official until the day before the start of a new series, though this is how it lines up at the moment:

That TBA was CC Sabathia, who left last night’s start with right knee pain and seems destined to land on the disabled list. Both Sabathia and Joe Girardi admitted there’s a lot of concern. Sabathia was in a lot of pain and his knee has been pretty messed up for a few years now. It’ll be surprise if he doesn’t wind up on the disabled list, really. Hopefully the upcoming tests bring good news.

As for the Red Sox series, noticeably absent from the pitching matchups are Tanaka and Sonny Gray. Tanaka is scheduled to start tonight and Gray tomorrow night, so they’ll miss the Red Sox series. Those two plus Severino are the Yankees’ three best starters at the moment. I don’t think anyone will disagree with me there. In the most important series of the season (to date), you want them on the mound.

The thing is, the Yankees could have easily lined up their rotation to ensure Tanaka and Gray (and Severino) would face the Red Sox this weekend. Yesterday’s off-day and last week’s six-man rotation would have made it possible with no headache at all. No one starting on short rest, no call-up spot sixth starter, nothing like that. Here’s how the Yankees could have lined the rotation up:

  • Tuesday @ Blue Jays: Tanaka on normal rest after Monday’s off-day
  • Wednesday @ Blue Jays: Sabathia on extra rest
  • Thursday @ Blue Jays: Garcia on normal rest after Monday’s off-day
  • Friday vs. Red Sox: Gray on extra rest
  • Saturday vs. Red Sox: Severino with an extra day of rest after Monday’s off-day
  • Sunday vs. Red Sox: Tanaka on normal rest

In a nutshell, the Yankees would have used Monday’s off-day to flip Tanaka and Sabathia, and Garcia and Gray. That would’ve lined up Gray, Severino, and Tanaka for the Red Sox series in that order. Instead, the Yankees are currently scheduled to start Garcia this weekend even though the Boston’s offense performs better against lefties (100 wRC+) than righties (92 wRC+).

The Sabathia injury changes things, assuming he’s unable to make his next start and doesn’t make a miraculous overnight recovery. The Yankees are going to have to plug someone into the rotation to take his spot. Jordan Montgomery is the obvious answer, but you know what? It might not be him. The Yankees could decide to keep him in Triple-A and continue on with his limited workload plan. Other rotation options include Bryan Mitchell, who pitched well in long relief last night, and either Luis Cessa or Caleb Smith. And I suppose Chance Adams, but I don’t see that happening.

Someone has to replace Sabathia, but that someone doesn’t necessarily have to start the same day Sabathia would have started. Sabathia’s replacement, whoever it is, could start tomorrow against the Blue Jays, which would push Gray back to Friday and into the Red Sox series. Mitchell and Smith pitched last night, which means Cessa and Montgomery are the only options for tomorrow’s start. (Adams doesn’t line up either.) Instead of Garcia-Severino-TBA this weekend it would be Gray-Garcia-Severino. Much better, I’d say.

One thing to keep in mind is these two teams will play again next weekend. Three games at Yankee Stadium this weekend and three games at Fenway Park next weekend, with four games against the Mets in-between. Whatever the Yankees do to the rotation this weekend will impact how things line up next weekend. For example:

Stay on turn Use spot starter tomorrow
Thursday at Blue Jays
Gray TBA
Friday vs. Red Sox
Garcia Gray
Saturday vs. Red Sox
Severino Garcia
Sunday vs. Red Sox TBA Severino
Mon. to Thurs. vs. Mets Tanaka-Gray-Garcia-Severino TBA-Tanaka-Gray-Garcia
Friday at Fenway Park TBA Severino
Saturday at Fenway Park Tanaka TBA
Sunday at Fenway Park Gray Tanaka

The column on the right looks much better, no? The Yankees would be getting two Severino starts against the Red Sox rather than two starts from whoever ends up being the TBA. There’s no way to line up Gray, Tanaka, and Severino for both Red Sox series with doing something really crazy like using multiple spot starters, and no. Just no. Two starts from Severino and one each from the other four guys is greatly preferable to two starts from TBA and one each from everyone else.

This is one of those things that makes too much sense not to happen. I hope it is. I was a bit surprised the Yankees didn’t flip-flop Sabathia and Tanaka this week — again, starting Tanaka last night and Sabathia tonight would have allowed Tanaka to face the Red Sox this weekend and next, rather than just next weekend — so who knows. Maybe the Yankees don’t care that much about optimizing their rotation for the two series against Boston and will remain on turn. I hope that’s not the case.

The Sabathia injury stinks. It really does. Sabathia looked genuinely upset and concerned about his future following the game last night, and that absolutely sucks. CC is forever cool in my book. The one thing the injury does is give the Yankees another chance to rearrange their rotation and make sure Gray faces the Red Sox this weekend, and Severino faces them this weekend and next. They had a chance to line up their ideal rotation with Monday’s off-day and didn’t take it. Now they get a second chance.

Sabathia going on the disabled list means either Montgomery or Cessa could come back up before spending the requisite ten days in the minors to make that spot start tomorrow, pushing Gray back. That’s how this is all made possible. The disabled list stint is needed to bypass the ten-day rule. The Yankees are four games back with 51 games to play, so they can’t afford to fall too much further behind Boston. The Yankees should do whatever they can to make sure their best pitchers start as many of those remaining ten head-to-head games against the Red Sox as possible.

Yankeemetrics: From heroes to zeroes (July 14-16)

(AP)
(AP)

Nightmare on Landsdowne Street
Another series opener, another late-inning implosion. One day into the post-break portion of the season and we already have a new nominee for Worst Loss of the Year.

The Yankees on Friday night were handed one of their most brutal and soul-crushing defeats of the season by their bitter rivals from Boston, losing on a walk-off walk when Aroldis Chapman completely unraveled in the ninth inning trying to protect a one-run lead.

You have to go back more than six decades to find the most recent time the Yankees suffered a walk-off loss via a bases-loaded walk against the Red Sox:

On August 7, 1956 Ted Williams drew a bases-loaded walk against Tommy Byrne in the bottom of the 11th in a 0-0 game. Williams was the first batter faced by Byrne, who had taken over after Don Larsen pitched 10 scoreless innings, but then had loaded the bases in the 11th inning via two errors and a walk. Of course, Larsen would go on to pitch a perfect game two months later and the Yankees would win the World Series.

And now your Yankeemetric History Lesson of the Series: The fact that Byrne was the loser in that 1956 game would hardly have been surprising to fans in the 1950s. He finished his career with a walk rate of 6.85 walks per nine innings, the highest in MLB history among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched.

With the Yankees adding to their growing list of bullpen meltdowns, let’s update our favorite chart:

Stat Notes
18 Blown Saves – Yeah, they had 16 all of last year;
– The most in MLB through Friday’s games (hooray!);
– 10 since June 12; three more than any other team in that span
18 One-Run Losses – Six more than they had all of last year;
– 10 of them since June 13, the most in the majors over the past month
4 Walk-off Losses – Matches the same number they had in all of 2016;
– At this point last year, they had only two such losses

Through Friday, the Yankees had converted just 17 of 35 save opportunities, an unfathomable save percentage of just 48.6 percent. Since saves became an official stat in 1969, the Yankees have never finished a season with a save conversion rate below 60 percent.

Chapman wore the goats’ horns on this night, in a game of unwelcome “firsts” for him. It was the first time he issued a game-ending walk, and the first time in his career he faced at least five batters and didn’t get an out.

And for that performance, he also gets our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series: He is the first Yankee pitcher – since saves were official tracked in 1969 – to face at least five guys and fail to get any of them out, while ‘earning’ both a loss and a blown save in the game.

(AP)
(AP)

What a relief
Three outs away from another depressing loss, the Yankees somehow rallied for a dramatic and exhausting 16-inning win over the Red Sox on Saturday afternoon/night. It was was just the fourth game at Fenway Park in the rivalry that went at least 16 innings (also in 1923, 1927, 1966) and the first one that the Yankees emerged as winners.

But for the Yankees, this wasn’t even their longest game of the season – yes, we all remember the 18-inning slog in Chicago a couple months ago. This is the first time in franchise history they’ve won multiple road games of 16-or-more innings in a single season.

Its easy to forget but this game featured two masterful starting pitching performances by Luis Severino and Chris Sale.

The Red Sox ace struck out 13 – the most ever by a Red Sox lefty against the Yankees. Add in the fact that he held the Yankees scoreless and gave up just three hits, and his performance becomes near-historically dominant: only three other pitchers in major-league history surrendered no earned runs and three hits or fewer while striking out at least 13 Yankees: Bartolo Colon (Sept. 18, 2000), Chuck Finley (May 23, 1995) and Jim Shaw (Sept. 4, 1914).

Severino nearly matched Sale with seven innings of one-run ball to keep the game close. It was his sixth game this season with at least seven innings pitched and no more than one run allowed, as the 23-year-old became the youngest Yankee pitcher to do that in a season since Andy Pettitte in 1995.

The game’s first hero was Matt Holliday, who led off the ninth inning with a dramatic solo homer off Craig Kimbrel to tie the game. He was the first Yankee to hit a game-tying homer in the ninth inning at Fenway Park since Roberto Kelly in 1991. How shocking was Holliday’s blast? Kimbrel entered the game a perfect 30-for-30 in save chances at Fenway Park in his career; and this season, right-handed batters were 0-for-37 against him in his home ballpark before Holliday went deep.

Didi Gregorius finally broke the 1-1 tie with a line-drive RBI single up the middle in the 16th inning. He etched his name in the record books forever as the first Yankee with a game-winning hit in the 16th inning or later at Fenway Park.

Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez drove in two more insurance runs to make the final score 4-1. It was just third time in franchise history that the Yankees won a game that went at least 16 innings by three or more runs. The other two: a 12-6 victory at Detroit on July 20, 1941 and a 11-6 win in Cleveland on May 18, 1976.

(AP)
(AP)

Do you believe in miracles?
Our loooooooooooong Yankeeland nightmare is finally over … after Sunday afternoon’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox, the Yankees won back-to-back games for the first time since June 11-12. The 27-game drought without a win streak was the team’s longest since August/September of 1991.

The fact that the Yankees snapped this tortuous stretch with a win over the Red Sox was hardly surprising – it was their sixth victory in eight games vs. their rival, and the third time they allowed no runs. In the long history of this rivalry, it is only the fourth time that the Yankees recorded three shutouts within the first eight matchups of the season. The other years: 1955, 1947 and 1908.

CC Sabathia was an absolute stud, scattering two hits across six shutout innings, while holding the Red Sox hitless in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. This was CC’s 17th career start at Fenway, and incredibly, the first time that he didn’t allow a run.

Combined with his eight scoreless frames against Boston at Yankee Stadium on June 7, Sabathia became the first Yankee since Ron Guidry in 1978 to pitch consecutive games of at least six scoreless innings against the Red Sox. And at the age of 36, he is the oldest Yankee to throw at least six innings, give up zero runs and no more than two hits in a game at Fenway Park.

Didi Gregorius followed up his late-inning heroics from Saturday with two more hits, including a solo homer that barely tucked inside Pesky’s Pole in right field. It went a projected distance of 295 feet, the shortest home run (excluding inside-the-parkers) recorded by Statcast in the last three seasons.

(Getty)
(Getty)

All good things must come to an end
The joy in Yankeeland lasted only a couple hours as the Yankees’ first win streak in more than a month was abruptly snapped in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. Yet that was probably only the second-most depressing stat from this game.

The Red Sox handed the Yankees a taste of their own medicine, blanking them 3-0 and giving them their first shutout loss of 2017. This was the deepest that the Yankees had gone into the season scoring at least one run in every game since 1933. They were also the last remaining team in MLB that hadn’t been held scoreless, the first time they’ve achieved that feat since 2009 — a season that ended nicely.

Going from the mildly distressing stat to the somewhat eclectic stat … this is just the third time in the history of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that the teams traded shutouts in a doubleheader; they also did it on May 6, 1945 and September 7, 1903.

Aaron Judge nearly saved the no-shutout streak but was robbed of a home run thanks to a superhuman catch by Jackie Bradley Jr. in the eighth inning, and finished the night hitless in four at-bats. That snapped his streak of 42 straight starts reaching base safely, which matched the longest such streak for a Yankee rookie, a mark set by Charlie Keller in 1939.

Despite the highs of the 16-inning win on Saturday and their 3-0 win in the first game of the twin bill, the Yankees still only managed a split of the four-game set. They’re now 0-7-2 in their last nine series, their longest winless series streak since August/September 1991.

7/14 to 7/16 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Mark Brown/Getty Images)

With a horrendous end to their first half firmly in the rear-view mirror, the Yankees look to open the second half with a renewed sense of purpose. Matt Holliday will be back in the lineup tonight, there’s a chance that Starlin Castro could return this weekend, and four days off should have helped with the other assorted bumps, bruises, and nagging injuries that tend to pile up over a 162-game season. And who better to right the ship against than the first-place Red Sox?

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox from June 6 through 8, moving out ahead of the AL East pack by three games with a 34-23 record. Unfortunately, they’re 11-18 since then, while the Red Sox have gone 18-12. That’ll turn a 3 game lead into a 3.5 game deficit in … well … about a month. Some notes from the series:

  • The Yankees dropped the first game 5-4, despite a dreadful performance from Masahiro Tanaka (5 IP, 5 ER, 3 HR allowed) and going 0-for-10 with RISP as a team. I list this as a reminder that it wasn’t too long ago that we refused to count this team out, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be back at that point soon.
  • Game two was an incredibly satisfying win, and not just because it was 8-0. CC Sabathia tossed 8 scoreless innings, the team was 5-for-12 with RISP, and Chris Carter somehow managed to go 3-for-4 with a home run and 4 RBI.
  • Gary Sanchez continued his torment of David Price in the third game, knocking out two home runs. He’s 4-for-7 with 4 HR, 9 RBI, and 2 BB against Price in his career.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun with numbers.

Injury Report

The Red Sox are still somewhat banged up, with Marco Hernandez, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright done for the season, Roenis Elias trending in that direction, and Carson Smith still up in the air. That being said, they stand to get much more healthy in the coming week, with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, and Eduardo Rodriguez all slated to return in the next week or so.

Their Story So Far

Boston is 50-39 with a +65 run differential, and the best home record (25-14) in the American League. Their pitching staff has been the driving force behind their success, with the third-best park-adjusted ERA in the majors, and the fourth best WAR. The fact that they have the best pitcher in the league helps, but it is far from a one-man show.

The Red Sox offense has been starting to click, as well, though its 105 wRC+ in the last 30 days still isn’t quite where they wanted to be. Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, and Hanley Ramirez all had slow starts (and Xander Bogaerts has slumped of late), and they haven’t come close to replacing David Ortiz. It’s difficult to see this offense as anything less than potent, but they’re still waiting to truly break out.

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

The Lineup We Might See

This has been John Farrell’s lineup of choice of late:

  1. Mookie Betts, RF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  4. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  5. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  6. Andrew Benintendi, LF
  7. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
  8. Christian Vazquez, C / or / Sandy Leon, C
  9. Tzu-Wei Lin, 3B

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz had a somewhat rough outing against the Yankees on June 6; he only allowed 2 R (1 ER) in 5.0 IP, but it took him 123 pitches to finish those innings. He was clearly laboring, and only 58% of his offerings were strikes – but the Yankees could get that one big hit to blow the game open. Pomeranz has made 17 starts this season on the whole, throwing 90 innings of 3.60 ERA (128 ERA+) ball.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/7) – 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 6 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Chris Sale

By several measures, Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball this year. He leads the majors in fWAR, K%, K-BB%, and park-adjusted FIP, and he’s averaging better than 7 IP per start. He has 10+ strikeouts and 0 walks in three of his 18 starts, and he’s walked more than 2 batters twice. In short, he has been dominant (and, yes, that includes his loss to the Yankees back in April, when he went 8 IP, allowing 8 H, 3 R, and 0 BB, while striking out 10).

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/6) – 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 12 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Bryan Mitchell vs. RHP Rick Porcello

Porcello has followed-up his Cy Young campaign by being the worst starter on the Red Sox. He’s currently sitting on a 4.75 ERA (97 ERA+) in 119.1 IP, and he has allowed 4+ ER in 7 of his 19 starts (and 3 ER in 6 more). He is coming off of his best start of the season, though.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/8) – 8.0 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K

Sunday (8:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. LHP David Price

The Yankees roughed Price up a little over a month ago, plating 6 runs in 5 innings, with 12 runners reaching base. Price has settled down since then, with a 3.25 ERA in six starts, but he has yet to look dominant this season. He missed nearly two months, so that’s understandable – but he didn’t look like the Price of old last year, either.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 7/9) – 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K

The Bullpen

The Red Sox have the best bullpen in baseball by RA9-WAR (FanGraphs’ run-based WAR), with nearly a full run lead over the Dodgers. Closer Craig Kimbrel leads the way, with his microscopic 1.19 ERA and ridiculous 16.3 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9 leading the way to his season yet. Joe Kelly (1.49 ERA), Fernando Abad (2.93), Blaine Boyer (3.13 ERA, 4.0 K/BB), Heath Hembree (3.57 ERA, 6.3 K/BB), and Matt Barnes (3.57 ERA, 10.9 K/9) form a formidable middle relief core that stands to improve if a couple of guys get healthy.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m all-in for the Gary Sanchez vs. David Price match-up.

In a more general sense, I’m just plain happy that the Yankees (and baseball) are back. Two days off may not be all that much in the most basic sense, but it felt like an eternity.

Yankeemetrics: Old Ace rising, Tanaka tanking (June 6-8)

(AP)
(AP)

Numbers Never Lie
A home run derby broke out at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night, but in a very depressing way for the hometown fans. Masahiro Tanaka‘s batting-practice fastballs and cement-mixer sliders were flying out of the park, while the Yankees’ repeated clutch-hitting woes sealed their fate – a disappointing 5-4 loss to their AL East rival.

The Red Sox entered the game with the fewest homers in the league, but that statistic mattered little on a chilly night in the Bronx as they went deep three times against Tanaka, who gave up five runs in five innings. Tanaka’s longball issues have reached crisis mode, with 14 surrendered in his last 32 innings pitched dating back to the fifth inning of his May 2 start vs Toronto.

That’s a remarkable number considering that:

  • It’s more home runs than any Yankee pitcher had given up the entire season through Tuesday
  • 77 of the 86 other qualified pitchers in MLB had allowed fewer than 14 home runs for the entire season through Tuesday

If those stats aren’t sobering enough, how about this: he gave up more homers to the Red Sox (3) than guys he struck out (2) … and it’s not even the first time he’s done that in a game this season! Unsurprisingly, he never did that in any game during his first three seasons in pinstripes.

The bottom line: Tanaka is the only pitcher in the majors this year who has multiple starts where he struck out at least two batters and still managed to allow more home runs than strikeouts in the game. Send help, please.

Not only did Tanaka serve up meatballs left and right against the Red Sox, his overall “stuff” was severely diminished and his pitches showed little deception. He got just three swings-and-misses (yup, the same number of homers he allowed), tied for the fewest in any of his 87 career starts.

(AP)
(AP)

CC’s lead the way
While the team’s improbable comeback wins have been getting a lot of buzz this season, an underrated theme for this Yankees squad has been their resiliency and avoiding long losing streaks. They haven’t lost more than three games in a row and haven’t been swept in any series so far. They assured both those milestones would remain intact on Wednesday, snapping their two-game slide and taking the second game of the series, 8-0.

This was a historic rout of their longtime division rival, marking their largest shutout win vs Red Sox since June 27, 1991 at Fenway. The last time they blanked the Red Sox by this large of a margin at Yankee Stadium was more than 50 years ago – on September 3, 1965!

The Yankees definitely had the right guy on the mound – Carsten Charles Sabathia – to stop their losing streak. After twirling eight scoreless innings, the 36-year-old lefty improved to 6-0 with a 1.25 ERA in seven starts following a Yankee loss. That’s the lowest ERA in games after a team loss for any pitcher in the majors this season (min. five starts).

This brilliant outing continued a string of ace-like performances by Sabathia, who is 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA in his last five starts. He’s just the third lefty in franchise history to win five starts in a row, allowing no more than two earned runs and six hits in each game: Ron Guidry had two such streaks (in 1978 and 1981) and Lefty Gomez also had a similar stretch in 1937.

On Wednesday, Sabathia’s slider was in peak form as the Red Sox went 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in the pitch – including four punchouts. Here’s a beautiful pitch chart of the 30 sliders he threw:

cc-sabathia-1

As you can see in the graphic above, he got only one whiff with his slider, but instead relied on its nasty movement to paint the edges of the zone and generate a whopping 13 called strikes. That matches the most he’s gotten with the pitch in any game since joining the Yankees.

His backdoor slider has been among the toughest in baseball for hitters to pick up this season. Sabathia’s 14 looking strikeouts with the slider are tied with Jhoulys Chacin for the most in MLB, and his slider called-strike rate is the second-highest among pitchers that have thrown at least 200 sliders this season.

While Sabathia was dealing on the mound, the other CC was a monster at the plate. Chris Carter went 3-for-4 with a towering home run and a season-high four RBIs, providing us with our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Week: he joins Scott Brosius (2000) as the only Yankee No. 9 hitters to drive in at least four runs and have at least three hits in a game against the Red Sox.

(Newsday)
(Newsday)

Who’s Your Daddy?
The Yankees finished off the series with another dominant win over their AL East rival, 9-1. This is just the third time in the last 30 years that they’ve notched back-to-back wins by at least eight runs against the Red Sox; the other two instances were Sept. 18-19, 2004 and May 23-24, 1998.

The Yankees pummeled David Price, scoring six runs in five innings against the former Cy Young winner. It was the sixth time over the last two seasons that Price has given up at least six earned runs in a game — and four (!) of those six disaster outings have come against the Yankees.

Gary Sanchez broke the game open with a towering three-run homer in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. But he was just getting warmed up… Sanchez took Price deep again two innings later, making him a ridiculous 4-for-7 with four homers in his career vs the Boston lefty.

He is one of six players with at least four homers vs Price — Manny Machado, Curtis Granderson, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, Jose Bautista are the others — and those five guys have faced him at least 40 times.

It was also Sanchez’s fifth multi-homer game in the big leagues, a staggering figure for someone playing in his 87th career game. He became the second-fastest player in major-league history to reach five multi-homer-games, behind only Mark McGwire (who did it in his 84th career game).

And, oh yeah, he also was the first Yankee catcher ever to have at least five RBIs and two homers in a game against the Red Sox. #FunFacts

While Sanchez was re-writing the Major-League record books, Aaron Judge continued his assault on the Statcast leaderboards. Judge’s sixth inning single left his bat at 119.8 mph, the third time this season he’s hit a ball 119 mph or faster. The rest of the players in major-league baseball have combined to do that zero times in 2017.

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.