4/29 to 5/1 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even though April is just about over, the Yankees are only now about to play their third series against an AL East team this year. They’ve spent a lot of time playing the AL West already. Weird schedule this year. Anyway, the Yankees are up in Boston to Renew The Rivalry™ with the Red Sox this weekend. They’ll play three games — all night games too, blah — at Fenway Park.

What Have They Done Lately?

The schedule makers did the Red Sox a solid this year and scheduled them a four-game home-and-home interleague series with the Braves. Atlanta did actually win the series finale yesterday, which is one more game than I expected them to win. The BoSox are 12-10 with a +11 run differential in the early going.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox were expected to score runs this season and they have done exactly that so far. They’re averaging 5.18 runs per game with a team 117 wRC+ in 2016. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who is out with a shoulder problem. He was awful last year and showed up to camp out of shape again this year. I’m guessing the Red Sox aren’t exactly rushing him back.

Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)
Ortiz. (Maddie Meyer/Getty)

As always, manager John Farrell’s lineup is built around the still annoyingly productive DH David Ortiz (168 wRC+). I really can’t wait until he retires. RF Mookie Betts (112 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (156 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (121 wRC+) usually hit ahead of Ortiz in the lineup. That’s their standard top of the batting order. 1B Hanley Ramirez (87 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (157 wRC+) have been hitting behind Ortiz.

The bottom of the lineup is occupied by LF Brock Holt (102 wRC+), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (84 wRC+), and C Christian Vazquez (61 wRC+). Former Yankee OF Chris Young (59 wRC+) is the extra outfielder, IF Josh Rutledge (211 wRC+) is the extra infielder, and C Ryan Hanigan (65 wRC+) is the backup backstop. Boston is currently carrying 13 pitches for whatever reason. They’re dealing some rotation injuries and want the extra relievers around in case the fill-ins get knocked out early, I guess.

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Henry Owens (vs. NYY)
Both Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) and Joe Kelly’s great stuff (shoulder) are on the DL, which is why the 23-year-old Owens joined the rotation last week. He allowed three runs on five hits and four walks in 3.1 innings against the Astros the other day in his only big league start of 2016. Owens had a 4.57 ERA (4.28 FIP) with an 18.8% strikeout rate, an 8.8% walk rate, a 34.7% ground ball rate, and a 1.00 HR/9 in 63 MLB innings last season. He sits a tick below 90 mph with both his four-seamer and sinker, and his bread and butter is a great upper-70s changeup. Owens will also mix in some low-70s curveballs. Guys with upper-80s fastballs need good command and Owens doesn’t have it. He doesn’t even have good control. He’s liable to walk himself into trouble and lay cookies over the plate. Patience is the key tonight.

Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)
Porcello. (Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Saturday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello’s second season with the Red Sox has gotten off to a much better start than his first season. He has a 3.51 ERA (4.12 FIP) in four starts and 25.2 innings, and his 29.2% strikeout rate is by far a career high. Porcello also has a 4.9% walk rate and a 50.0% ground ball rate, though his 1.75 HR/9 is an eyesore. Lefties have historically hit him a lot larder than righties. Porcello, 27, uses a sinker right around 90 mph as his main fastball, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutter/slider things. With Porcello, it’s all about the sinker. If he’s commanding it at the bottom of the zone, he’ll dominate. If he’s doing anything else, he’ll get knocked around.

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
We started doing these series preview posts at RAB back in 2011, and during these last five years and one month, I think we’ve written about Price as an opposing starter more than any other pitcher. Has to be, right? It’s either him or Chris Tillman. The Yankees never seem to miss Price (or Tillman) whenever they play whatever team he happens to be playing for at the time.

Anyway, Price’s tenure in Boston has gotten off to an uneven start. He has a 5.76 ERA (2.44 FIP) in 29.2 innings, and he currently has a career high strikeout rate (35.4%) and a career low ground ball rate (36.1%). His walk (6.2%) and homer (0.91 HR/9) rates are higher than they have been in four or five years now. Price, 30, has never had much of a platoon split because his stuff and command are so good. He’s sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker, and about 88 mph with his cutter. His velocity is actually down noticeably from last year (via Brooks Baseball):

David Price velocityPrice uses a low-80s changeup as his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. There’s no messing around here though. Price throws his three fastballs about 70% of the time combined. He throws hard and he dares you to hit it.

Bullpen Status

New president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski went out and made some big trades this offseason to improve his bullpen, which was an obvious team weakness last year. One of his trade pickups, RHP Carson Smith, has been on the DL all season with a forearm injury. The other, RHP Craig Kimbrel, has already had some high-profile meltdowns. Here’s the bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 11.1 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 19 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (15 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 10 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 18 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (23 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)
RHP Pat Light: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross. Jr.: 10 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 8.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 9.1 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 9 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)

Like Joe Girardi, Farrell likes to assign his relievers set innings whenever possible. Kimbrel is the closer, Uehara is the eighth inning guy, and Tazawa is the seventh inning guy. That’s the formula. Layne is the left-on-left specialist and Ross is more of the long man lefty. Barnes is the low leverage middle reliever and Hembree has kinda come out of nowhere to pitch well.

The Yankees had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get one month into the season. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have each had three straight days off, so they’re good to go. Our Bullpen Workload page will tell you all you need to know about the team’s relief corps.

The Rest of the AL East [2016 Season Preview]

Over the last six seasons, each of the five AL East teams has won at least one division title. The Yankees (2011, 2012) are the only club with multiple division titles in the last six years. The days of the AL East being dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox are long gone. The other three teams are no longer pushovers.

For what it’s worth, the projections at FanGraphs have the five AL East teams all winning between 79-88 games in 2016, a gap of only nine wins. Baseball Prospectus has them all in the 75-87 win range. If nothing else, the objective computers think the five clubs are pretty close in terms of talent level. You’re welcome to disagree, of course.

Because knowing your enemy is just as important as knowing yourself, let’s take some time to preview the upcoming season for the four non-Yankees teams in the AL East. This is nothing too in-depth. It’s just enough to give you an idea what the Yankees are up against in 2016.

Is the Showalter honeymoon over? (Presswire)
(Presswire)

Baltimore Orioles

Notable Additions: Mark Trumbo, Pedro Alvarez, Yovani Gallardo
Notable Losses: Wei-Yin Chen, Steve Pearce, Gerardo Parra

The Orioles went 81-81 last season, and they had to commit $207.8M to Chris Davis, Darren O’Day, and Matt Wieters this offseason just to keep their core intact. Also, Kevin Gausman is dealing with a shoulder issue and Miguel Gonzalez was released yesterday, so their rotation right now is:

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Yovani Gallardo
  3. Ubaldo Jimenez
  4. ???
  5. ???

That seems less than ideal. O’Day and Zach Britton are a dynamite end-game tandem, but I’m not sure how manager Buck Showalter expects to get the ball to them. They’re counting on a big time bounceback from Tillman and consistency from Jimenez (lol), and for Gallardo to chew up innings better than he did last year. He completed six innings just twice in his final 16 starts of 2015.

The O’s are going to have to win a lot of 7-6 games to contend and they have the firepower to do so. Davis, Trumbo, Alvarez, Adam Jones, and Manny Machado are all legitimate 30 homer threats. Watch out for Jonathan Schoop too. He hit 15 homers in only 321 plate appearances last year. The Trumbo and Alvarez pickups don’t do anything to help the club’s OBP problem — the O’s were 26th in baseball with a .307 OBP in 2015 — so while they might hit 250 home runs this season, most of them will be solo shots.

Baltimore is the only AL East team that would really surprise me by winning the division. They’re going to hit a ton of homers, there’s no doubt about that, but they don’t get on base and the pitching staff is thin. I mean really, really thin. The O’s will be a headache to play this season. Over the course of 162 games though, I feel it’s only a matter of time until they fall behind the rest of the AL East.

A worthy foe. (Presswire)
A worthy foe. (Presswire)

Boston Red Sox

Notable Additions: David Price, Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith, Chris Young
Notable Losses: Wade Miley

For the third or fourth year in a row, the Red Sox changed philosophies this offseason, deciding to spend big after former GM Ben Cherington spent a few years preaching restraint and flexibility. New baseball operations chief Dave Dombrowski is all about big names, has been for years, hence the Price signing and Kimbrel trade. Those moves were right in his wheelhouse.

Price gives the BoSox the ace they so clearly lacked, but I think the bullpen additions are going to help them more than Price. Kimbrel and Smith are replacing Alexei Ogando and Craig Breslow, who combined to allow 62 runs in 130.1 innings in 2015. Those two will join Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the late innings. (Smith’s dealing with a flexor injury and will miss the start of the regular season.)

Offensively, the Red Sox have sneaky big questions in five spots: catcher (Blake Swihart), first base (Hanley Ramirez), third base (Pablo Sandoval), left field (Rusney Castillo), and center field (Jackie Bradley Jr.). They’re already talking about sending Castillo to Triple-A and playing a Young/Brock Holt platoon in left, and apparently now Travis Shaw is the starting third baseman. Everyone seems to be assuming Hanley and Bradley will have above-average seasons because … I don’t know why. At least Hanley has his track record to fall back on.

The Red Sox get the benefit of the doubt more than any chronically underachieving team deserves. They have talent, that much is clear, but they’ve had talent the last two years too, and they still finished in last place. The Red Sox are going to be tough to play against because they’re always tough to play against. Bet on them at your own risk though. No club has done less with more the last two seasons.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Tampa Bay Rays

Notable Additions: Logan Morrison, Brad Miller, Hank Conger, Steve Pearce, Corey Dickerson
Notable Losses: Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Nate Karns, Jake McGee, James Loney

Only the White Sox scored fewer runs than the Rays among AL teams a year ago, so Tampa Bay set out to improve their offense by acquiring a bunch of guys who can be good if used in very specific ways. Dickerson is good as long as he never faces lefties and is your DH. Miller is good as long as he never faces lefties and the ball is never hit to him. That kinda thing. That’s what the Rays do. They find imperfect players and try to use them perfectly.

The Rays did sacrifice some defense for offense this winter. Morrison is unquestionably worse at first base than Loney. (Loney was told he won’t make the team yesterday.) Remember how shaky and goof prone Didi Gregorius was early last year? That’s Miller all the time. Asdrubal is no great shakes in the field, but he is sure-handed. Conger, meanwhile, is the worst throwing catcher in baseball. He went 1-for-43 throwing out base-stealers last year. That is not a typo. 1-for-43. o n e f o r f o r t y t h r e e

To their credit, the Rays ostensibly improved their weaknesses without sacrificing too much from their strengths. They still have a solid rotation even without Karns and their defense is not atrocious. The bullpen is a little up in the air because McGee is gone and Brad Boxberger will miss a few weeks following core muscle surgery, so that’s their big question right now. Manager Kevin Cash usually doesn’t let his non-Chris Archer starters go through the lineup a third time, and those middle innings are rather treacherous.

For Tampa Bay to contend this year, they’ll need Evan Longoria to get back to where he was earlier in his career, and I’m not sure how possible that is. He’s now 30 and his power is starting to vanish; he went from being a consistent .230+ ISO guy to a .150 ISO guy the last two seasons. That’s bad news for the Rays, especially since his six-year, $100M extension kicks in next year. The Rays will be in the hunt this year, but, as always, they’ll need a lot to go right to beat out division rivals with more resources.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Toronto Blue Jays

Notable Additions: Jesse Chavez, J.A. Happ, Drew Storen, Gavin Floyd
Notable Losses: David Price, Mark Buehrle, Mark Lowe, Liam Hendriks, Ben Revere

You’d think going to the postseason for the first time in two decades would be enough to keep the GM around, but apparently not. The Blue Jays named former Indians president Mark Shapiro their new president last year, replacing the retired Paul Beeston, and GM Alex Anthopoulos felt his authority would be undermined, so he rejected an extension offer and walked away over the winter. Crazy, huh?

The Blue Jays have never been huge spenders and Shapiro himself has a history of steering clear of big free agents, so the team never made much of an effort to keep Price. They instead opted to replace him (and Buehrle) with Happ, Chavez, and a full year of Marcus Stroman. It … might work? They only had Price for eleven starts in 2015, after all. Buehrle was close to toast by the end of the season too.

Toronto still has their powerhouse lineup — they scored 891 runs last season, 127 more than the second highest scoring team (Yankees!) and the most by any team since the 2009 Yankees (915) — and now they’ll have a full year of Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. Even if he spends time on the DL, 100 games of Tulo and 62 games of a replacement level player is still one of the best shortstops in the game.

As I said this morning, I am of the belief the Blue Jays will outscore any pitching problems. The Yankees did that for years in the mid-2000s. I’m an offense first guy. I’ll always bet on the team with a juggernaut offense coming out ahead over the course of a 162-game season. The Blue Jays may not be quite as imposing as they were in the second half last season, but they’re still very good. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be free agents next offseason, so this might be the club’s last chance to win with this core.

Red Sox get their ace: Boston to sign David Price to $217M deal

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

As expected, the Red Sox have spent big for a free agent ace. According to multiple reports, the BoSox and David Price have agreed to a seven-year contract worth $217M. He gets an opt-out after year three, which is par for the course these days. All huge money deals include an opt-out. The contract is still pending a physical which will happen later this week.

At $217M, this is the largest pitching contract in history, narrowly edging out Clayton Kershaw’s $215M pact. It’s the eighth largest contract ever, behind Giancarlo Stanton ($325M), Alex Rodriguez ($275M and $252M), Miguel Cabrera ($248M), Robinson Cano ($240M), Albert Pujols ($240M), and Joey Votto ($225M). Hey, you don’t bring in Dave Dombrowski to run your baseball operations to not spend money and trade prospects.

As for the Yankees, this doesn’t really affect anything other than having to compete against Price and the Red Sox going forward. New York wasn’t in the hunt for Price — the Cubs, Giants, Cardinals, and Dodgers were the other teams in the race, reports Jerry Crasnick — because they’re unlikely to spend significant money this offseason. The Yankees only spend what comes off payroll and this year that’s only $20M or so.

Nothing has really changes for the Yankees as far as their offseason plan is concerned. They still could use another starting pitcher, preferably one they control beyond 2017, plus maybe a second baseman and miscellaneous depth pieces. A Brett Gardner or Andrew Miller trade could change things considerably, but right now both are on the roster.

Kimbrel off the board: Padres trade closer to Red Sox

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to multiple reports, the Padres have traded closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox for four prospects, most notably outfielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra. MLB.com has them ranked as the 25th and 76th best prospects in baseball, respectively. Both clubs have since announced the deal.

The Yankees tried hard to acquire Kimbrel at the trade deadline, reporting offering top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo and others for Kimbrel and second baseman Jedd Gyorko (and the rest of Gyorko’s big contract). There have been no indications the two sides would revisit the deal this winter, but it seemed like a possibility.

Brian Cashman said the Yankees are “open to anything” multiple times at the GM Meetings last week, so much so that closer Andrew Miller‘s name has popped up in trade rumors. There’s been speculation they could trade Miller, then replace him with someone like Kimbrel or a trade for another high-end reliever.

Anyway, the Yankees remain set in the late innings with Miller and Dellin Betances. Justin Wilson is a pretty good third option as well. The bullpen certainly isn’t a priority, but there’s no such thing as too many good relievers. Second base and the rotation remain the biggest needs.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome to October (Sept. 28-Oct. 1)

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

We’re going to start this Yankeemetrics off with the good news first …

They’re baaaaack!
The Yankees pretty much couldn’t have written a better script for their playoff-clinching victory:

Milestone win, No. 10,000? Check.
Against your long-standing rival? Check.
With your veteran (former?) ace on the mound? Check.
And in your final home game of the season? Check.

Oh, and this (h/t to Brendan Kuty):
murphy
The Yankees are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012, snapping a two-season drought that felt like an eternity for most Yankee fans. It’s the 52nd time they’ve made the postseason — a pretty impressive number considering that no other franchise even has made 30 postseason appearances. This is also the fifth time they’ve made it as a wild card — in the previous four trips, they’ve advanced to the ALCS just once and have never won the World Series.

The win also, of course, was the 10,000th in franchise history (which dates back to 1903), as the Yankees became the first American League team to reach that milestone. This is the second time that the Red Sox were the victim of a nice round number franchise win — on June 30, 1949 they beat Boston for their 4,000th win in franchise history.

CC Sabathia capped off his remarkable late-season resurgence with another strong outing, allowing just one run on six hits in five innings. Although he struggled at times this season (to put it mildly), he was at his best pitching against the Red Sox. He finished with a 2.12 ERA in three starts vs. Boston, his lowest ERA in a single season against them since joining the Yankees.

And now onto the not-so-good news …

Score early and … not often
The champagne wasn’t the only thing put on ice at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. The Yankees’ bats were chilled in their 5-1 loss to the Red Sox — and were frozen solid in the clutch, as they went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez threw six innings of one-run ball, earning his third win in four starts against the Yankees this year. Rodriguez is first Red Sox pitcher to beat Yankees three times in a season before turning 23 years old since Mike Nagy in 1969, and the first left-hander to do it since Babe Ruth in 1917.

For the Yankees, Ivan Nova held the Red Sox scoreless through five innings. But things unraveled in the sixth and seventh innings when he allowed two-run homers to Travis Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr., resulting in his 10th loss of the season, matching CC Sabathia for the team “lead.”

Nova and Sabathia are just the second set of Yankee teammates with at least 10 losses, a losing record and an ERA of 4.70 or worse in the same season. The only other season this happened was 1991, when the Yankees had three (!) guys — Jeff Johnson, Tim Leary, Wade Taylor — reach each of those thresholds.

Deja vu all over again
For the second straight night, the Yankees failed to move closer to clinching a playoff spot, losing to the Red Sox 10-4 on Tuesday. And, for the second straight night, the Yankees scored early and then not again, putting up four runs in the first inning and zero runs in the next eight frames.

The game couldn’t have started any worse for the Yankees and Michael Pineda. Small Mike allowed six of the first seven batters to score and the Yankees were down 6-0 even before they stepped to the plate.

The final three runs in that first inning came off the bat of Blake Swihart, who clubbed a three-run homer into the right field seats. The catcher later added a two-run homer in the eighth inning, cementing his place in the record books of this historic rivalry. The 23-year-old Swihart is the youngest Red Sox player ever with at least two homers and five RBIs in a game versus the Yankees.

Round number alert! Brett Gardner stole his 20th base of the season, the sixth time he’s reached that mark in his career. Only three other players have compiled at least six 20-steal seasons with the Yankees: Wid Conroy (six), Hal Chase (eight) and Derek Jeter (eight).

Deja vu all over again, Part II
Another night, another game of wasted opportunities for this Yankees team that is doing its best to keep the beer and champagne on ice for as long as possible.

They certainly had their chances against the Red Sox in Wednesday’s extra-inning loss, putting 23 guys on base — their most baserunners in a loss to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium since June 17, 1986. The end result was a crushing 9-5 defeat, their largest (in terms of runs) extra-inning loss ever at Yankee Stadium in a game against the Red Sox.

It was also their third straight loss to Boston by at least four runs, the first time in the history of the rivalry that the Yankees have dropped three games in a row to the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, each by four or more runs.

The Yankees were eliminated from AL East contention on Wednesday, sealing their inevitable fate in a race the Yankees once led by seven games in late July. This is first time ever that the Yankees have not won division/league title after having a lead of more than six games at any point in the season.

9/28 to 10/1 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s the final home series of the season. The Red Sox are in the Bronx for a four-game set starting tonight, and if all goes as planned, the Yankees will clinch a postseason berth at Yankee Stadium this week. The Yankees are 10-5 against the Red Sox this year, but only 3-3 at Yankee Stadium. They’ve won each of the last four series these two teams have played.

What Have The Red Sox Done Lately?

The Red Sox swept the Orioles at home this weekend, and they didn’t just sweep them, they shut them out all three game. They outscored the O’s 17-0 in the three games. Boston is 75-80 with a -6 run differential overall, good for fourth place in the AL East race. Their tragic number is one, so the Yankees can officially eliminate the BoSox from postseason contention this series. That’ll be sweet.

Offense & Defense

The Red Sox are averaging 4.65 runs per game with a team 98 wRC+ this season, but they’ve been much better of late, averaging 5.21 runs per game with a team 107 wRC+ since the All-Star break. They’re without OF Hanley Ramirez (89 wRC+) and 3B Pablo Sandoval (75 wRC+), who are done for the season with a shoulder injury and pneumonia, respectively. A total of 957 position players have appeared in a game in 2015. Sandoval and Hanley are tied for 957th with -1.9 fWAR. Woof.

Ortiz. (Presswire)
Ortiz. (Presswire)

Interim manager Torey Lovullo — manager John Farrell is away from the team undergoing cancer treatment — still builds his lineup around DH David Ortiz (134 wRC+), who, after a slow start, has typical David Ortiz numbers now. OF Mookie Betts (116 wRC+) and SS Xander Bogaerts (112 wRC+) have been Boston’s two best players this year, and 2B Dustin Pedroia (120 wRC+) just recently returned from his latest injury. UTIL Brock Holt (101 wRC+) is now filling at third after playing second while Pedroia was out.

OF Jackie Bradley Jr. (122 wRC+) and OF Rusney Castillo (81 wRC+) surround Betts in the outfield — Bradley had that insane hot streak a few weeks but has cooled off big time recently — and IF Travis Shaw (120 wRC+) is getting most of the playing time at first base. C Blake Swihart (86 wRC+) and C Ryan Hanigan (84 wRC+) share catching duties. The crop of September call-ups features C Sandy Leon, IF Deven Marrero, and IF Josh Rutledge.

The Red Sox have a very good team defense now that Hanley and Sandoval are out of the picture. Betts, Bradley, and Castillo are all good to great in the outfield and both Pedroia and Bogaerts are strong up the middle. Shaw and Holt are fine on the corners. Not great but not a disaster either. Hanigan rates as a strong pitch-framer while Swihart is average. Both throw out an average number of base-stealers too.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. NYY)
This has been a good but not great rookie campaign for the 22-year-old Rodriguez, who has a 3.97 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 20 starts and 115.2 innings. The BoSox have been spacing out his starts of late to control his workload. Rodriguez has average-ish peripherals across the board — 18.8 K%, 7.3 BB%, 43.4 GB%, and 1.01 HR/9 — and has been much better against righties (.292 wOBA) than lefties (.359 wOBA). That’s because no one bites on his mid-80s slider. He has nothing for lefties other than his mid-90s four-seamer. Rodriguez does have a good mid-80s changeup though. The Yankees have faced Rodriguez three times this year and they’ve scored exactly two runs all three times (6.1 innings, seven innings, and five innings.)

Tuesday (7pm ET): TBA vs. LHP Wade Miley (vs. NYY)
Miley, 28, has a 4.39 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 188.2 innings across 31 starts in his first season with the Red Sox. Neither his strikeout (17.9%) nor walk (7.5%) rates are anything special, though both his grounder (48.9%) and homer (0.81 HR/9) numbers are better than average. That’s his game, getting ground balls. Righties (.326 wOBA) have had a little more success against him than lefties (.294 wOBA). Miley works right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seam fastballs, in the low-80s with his slider and changeup, and in the upper-70s with his curveball. The curve is his seldom-used fifth pitch. He also works extremely fast. Gets the ball and throws it, no walking around or anything. Miley has seen the Yankees three times this year: two runs in 5.1 innings in April, three runs in seven innings in May, and six runs in 5.1 innings in July.

Porcello. (Presswire)
Porcello. (Presswire)

Wednesday (7pm ET): TBA vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
The overall numbers are ugly (5.04 ERA and 4.29 FIP) but the 26-year-old Porcello has been much better in six starts since coming off the DL (2.98 ERA and 3.10 FIP). That’s not necessarily a “he’s healthy now” thing. It’s more of a “they let him focus on his sinker again” thing. Porcello’s strikeout (19.9%) and grounder (45.5%) rates are about average, his walk rate (5.3%) is very good, and his homer rate (1.38 HR/9) is very bad. He’s also been hit much harder by lefties (.358 wOBA) than righties (.326 wOBA). Both Porcello’s sinker and four-seamer sit in the low-90s, and his go-to offspeed pitch is a mid-70s curveball. He’ll also throw mid-80s sliders and low-80s changeups. Believe it or not, the Yankees have faced Porcello just once this year, scoring three runs (one earned) in eight innings earlier this month.

Thursday (7pm ET): TBA vs. LHP Rich Hill (vs. NYY)
Baseball is weird, man. Hill, now 35, started his career as a promising starter with the Cubs from 2005-07, then he suddenly couldn’t throw strikes in 2008. He moved to the bullpen, bounced around from 2009-14 — he appeared in 14 games for the Yankees last September — and wound up in an independent league earlier this season. Hill moved back into the rotation with the Long Island Ducks, dominated in two starts (11 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 21 K), got scooped up by Boston, and now he’s in their rotation. Naturally, Hill has a 1.17 ERA (1.63 FIP) in three starts with the Red Sox this month. He’s struck out 30, walked two, and allowed ten hits. For what it’s worth, Hill attributes his newfound success to being “able to figure out the most efficient way for me to pitch.” He chalks it all up to experience. There’s been no change in his stuff at all — four-seamer right around 90 mph, a big-breaking curve in the low-70s, and a few low-80s changeups per start — so I guess it’s just a matter of throwing strikes and whatnot. Baseball, man.

Meanwhile, aside from Nova, the Yankees rotation remains unsettled this week because of Masahiro Tanaka‘s hamstring. He could return pretty much any day now, though Thursday is the absolutely latest he could start a game and then be available for the wildcard game next Tuesday. That’s the deadline, basically. So the Yankees are currently listing three TBAs while they wait for Tanaka to get the okay.

Bullpen Status
The Boston bullpen has been a weakness all season, and they’re now without closer RHP Koji Uehara and setup man RHP Junichi Tazawa. Uehara was hit by a comebacker and broke his wrist, and Tazawa was shut down because his workload was getting crazy. RHP Jean Machi (5.20 ERA/4.58 FIP) and LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.99/4.05) have taken over as Lovullo’s late-inning duo.

LHP Tommy Layne (4.08/3.74) is the matchup lefty while RHP Alexi Ogando (4.19/5.49) and RHP Noe Ramirez (4.38/6.15 in limited time) will see some setup work because there are no other options. LHP Craig Breslow (4.22/5.11) is also in the mix. RHP Jonathan Aro, RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Ryan Cook, RHP Heath Hembree, and RHP Roman Mendez are the extra September arms. Ramirez, Layne, and Ross pitched yesterday.

Keep tabs on Joe Girardi‘s relief crew with out Bullpen Workload page. Over the Monster is the place to go for the latest and greatest on the Red Sox.

Yankeemetrics: Fenway’s finest (Aug. 31-Sept. 2)

This guy is on fire.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
This guy is on fire. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Yankee wasteland in Boston
The Yankees had so many missed scoring opportunities in their 4-3 loss to the Red Sox on Monday night, it’s not worth recounting here. But know this: they left 14 men on base, their most stranded baserunners in any nine-inning game that they ended up losing by one run since Sept. 11, 2010 against the Rangers. And the last time they endured a loss like that against the Red Sox was July 17, 1996.

A plane trip to Boston couldn’t cool down the red-hot bat of Didi Gregorius, who had another four-hit night, and just missed being the hero when his ninth-inning fly ball was caught for the final out at the warning track by Rusney Castillo. Oh, and he did this: Sir Didi became the first Yankee shortstop with at least four hits in a game at Fenway Park since the immortal Rafael Santana on June 13, 1988. Yup, Mr. Jeter somehow never did that.

Carlos Beltran quietly reached a pretty cool milestone in this game with his 500th career double in the fifth inning. He’s now the only switch switch hitter in major-league history with at least 500 doubles, 300 homers and 300 stolen bases. The only other players to reach those totals (regardless of batting side) are Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson.

13 times a charm
The Yankees overcame a really impressive performance by Rick Porcello (and his 5.47 ERA) on Tuesday night to win a pitchers’ duel, 3-1, against the Red Sox.

Porcello recorded 13 strikeouts in his eight innings of work, becoming just the third Red Sox pitcher in the last 100 seasons to reach that total against the Yankees. Roger Clemens struck out 13 Yankees on Sept. 30, 1987; Pedro Martinez got 13 punch outs against them on May 30, 2001 and then had 17 strikeouts in an epic one-hitter at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 10, 1999.

The New Jersey native also joined an even more exclusive club, though, when he got tagged with the loss. He is the only major-league pitcher in the last 100 years to lose a game against the Yankees despite getting 13-or-more strikeouts and allowing no more than one earned run.

Michael Pineda didn’t quite dominate like Porcello (only seven strikeouts), but his six innings of one-run, four-hit ball were plenty good enough for the win. It was also Pineda’s third straight start of no more than one run allowed against the Red Sox in Boston, a streak that is unprecedented for any Bronx Bomber since at least 1914. That’s right, Pineda is the first Yankee in more than a century to allow one run or fewer in three straight starts at Fenway Park.

The friendly confines of … Fenway?
It has been more than five decades since the Yankees enjoyed their trips to Fenway Park as much as they have over the last two seasons. With their win over the Red Sox on Wednesday, the Yankees have now captured the last six series played between these rivals in Boston. That’s their longest streak of series wins on the road against the Red Sox since taking seven in a row from 1956 to 1958.

The Yankees jumped out to an early double-digit lead, scoring eight runs in the second and then three more in the third. This was the first time ever that the Yankees scored at least 11 runs combined in the first three innings of a game at Fenway Park.

Red Sox rookie Henry Owens was on the mound for most of the damage and charged with seven runs in 1 2/3 innings. He’s the first Red Sox starter to give up at least seven runs while pitching fewer than two innings at Fenway against the Yankees since Luis Tiant (who was at the game!) on Sept. 29, 1976.

The young bats shined for the Yankees in this game, with three of their five home runs coming from Greg Bird (age 22), John Ryan Murphy (age 24) and Didi Gregorius (age 25). The last time the Yankees had at least three players age 25 or younger homer in the same game was Sept. 25, 1990 versus the Orioles.

But the biggest offensive star of the game was probably Stephen Drew, who went 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs. He’s the third Yankee No. 9 batter with at least three hits and three RBIs in a game at Fenway Park, joining Scott Brosius (June 19, 2000) and Pat Kelly (Aug. 15, 1995).