5/30 to 6/2 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

The rivalry renews this week for a four-game set in the Bronx. Let’s get right into it.

Their Story Thus Far

Since dropping two games at the Stadium in April, the Red Sox are looking much better, but they come in at 29-27. They’re 7.5 games back of the Bombers and tied for the second wild card spot.

At the plate, they’ve been successful but not world-beating like the 2018 edition. They’re fifth in MLB in OBP, fourth in walk rate and 12th in home runs. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are each having very good seasons, though, again, not at 2018-MVP levels.

The pitching staff is middle of the pack in ERA, FIP, HR/9, WAR and walk rate. They went into action Wednesday with the fifth best strikeout rate. Bullpen has had some creakiness but has been better than expected until the last two days. Meanwhile, the rotation has mostly weathered the storm of early poor performance and injury.

Injury Report

Mitch Moreland was placed on the 10-day IL on Wednesday with a lower back strain. Starters Nathan Eovaldi and Brian Johnson could be back next month from elbow injuries. RHP Tyler Thornburg (hip) went on the IL on May 23. Infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and Marco Hernandez won’t be back for this series.

Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia recently stepped away from the team in his knee rehab and may have played the last games of his career.

Player Spotlight: Michael Chavis

That Pedroia news would hit harder if Boston didn’t have a second baseman of the future on their roster. Mostly playing the corners in the Minor Leagues, Chavis isn’t known for glove necessarily … but boy, can he rake!

Despite an 0-for-5 yesterday, he has been a godsend for Boston. The rookie infielder has hit 10 dingers in 35 games and is third on the team in homers and slugging. He came up after Boston’s lackluster start to the season mixed with some infield injuries.

He’s had a minor slump since hitting a game-winning homer in Toronto last week with his slugging dropping from .585 to .507. Still, he’s had some clutch hits for the Sox and now gets his first taste of the rivalry.

Potential Lineup

The Red Sox have had two leadoff hitters: Andrew Benintendi against righties and Chavis against lefties. I expect that to continue here.

  1. Michael Chavis, 2B (.269/.364/.507, 128 wRC+)
  2. Mookie Betts, RF (.291/.400/.484, 133 wRC+)
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.293/.381/.514, 135 wRC+)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (.298/.379/.529, 134 wRC+)
  5. Rafael Devers, 3B (.325/.285/.505, 133 wRC+)
  6. Steve Pearce, 1B (.182/.247/.261, 32 wRC+)
  7. Andrew Benintendi, LF (.260/.355/.420, 104 wRC+)
  8. Christian Vazquez, C (.301/.340/.500, 115 wRC+)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.185/.285/.315, 60 wRC+)

Boston’s bench right now consists of utility man Brock Holt, INF Eduardo Nunez and catcher Sandy Leon. They’ve been short a man with Moreland going on the IL.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:05 PM ET) J.A. Happ (vs. Red Sox) vs. Chris Sale (vs. Yankees)

After giving up four runs over five innings to the Yankees in mid-April, Sale has more or less returned to form. He had 51 strikeouts in his first four starts this month, including a remarkable 17 Ks in a game the Red Sox ultimately lost.

However, he’s still hittable for the moment. He’s surrendered homers in each of his last three starts and he issued five walks in his second-to-last game. Still, as with most of his career, he’s mostly avoided bouts of wildness.

Since you’re no doubt wondering, yes, his velocity is still down across the board. He’s able to dial it up to the mid-90s. Though he’s been productive, his ERA is 4.19 now and his home run rate is a career-worst. His walk rate hasn’t been this high since his second season (though it’s still just 6.9 percent).

Sale (Baseball Savant)

Friday (7:05 PM ET) Domingo German or opener vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. Yankees)

The Red Sox’s inconsistent southpaw rebounded from back-to-back bad starts to hold the Astros to just one run over six innings Sunday to help Boston avoid a sweep. In his start before that, he allowed three home runs to the hapless Blue Jays. Yikes.

Through 11 starts and 60 2/3 innings, Rodriguez has a 5.04 ERA, though his 3.58 FIP and strong peripherals indicates some bad luck. Indeed, he has a career-high .345 BABIP. The left-hander still strikeouts north of a batter an inning and has a walk rate just below his career norms.

His repertoire remains largely the same, relying heavily on his four-seamer, cutter and changeup. His fastball velocity is down 0.8 mph, which could explain some of his poor results.

Rodriguez (Baseball Savant)

Saturday (7:15 PM ET) Domingo German or opener vs. Rick Porcello (vs. Yankees)

Porcello remains a fairly average pitcher, as evidenced by his 4.41 ERA. His 4.70 FIP and 5.23 xFIP to go with fewer strikeouts and more walks are troubling. He was downright bad in April before rebounding this month and the West Orange product hasn’t missed a start this year.

He’s been especially homer prone away from Fenway Park. The Yankees last faced him in the 2018 ALDS which I try not to think very hard about. His velocity is largely the same, higher in fact on some pitches, and the 30-year-old shouldn’t be experiencing much decline just yet.

In a reverse of many baseball trends, Porcello has actually gone to more four-seam fastballs than a year ago. He’s lowered the usage of all four of his other offerings, including his sinker and slider, to up his four-seam percentage to career highs. Check out the high spin rate, though low velocity.

Porcello (Baseball Savant)

Sunday (7:05 PM ET) CC Sabathia (vs. Red Sox) vs. David Price (vs. Yankees)

David Price. On a Sunday night. In the Bronx. Let’s go!

Price shook off labels of big-game choker with a fabulous postseason (post-Yankees ALDS start, of course). He shouldn’t still have any fear coming into the Stadium. He won’t have to face Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, though his nemesis Gary Sanchez is scheduled to appear. As will Gleyber Torres and Aaron Hicks, who took him deep last year.

The veteran lefty has been undoubtably Boston’s best starter while pitching around elbow trouble this year. He comes in with a 2.83 ERA, 3.22 FIP and a K/BB ratio just south of 5.0. This is what the Red Sox wanted when they signed him to a $200+ million deal a few years ago.

Price actually has a career-best strikeout rate of 28.7 percent. He’ll be making his fourth start since coming off the IL. He had a bout of flu-like symptoms that cut his Saturday outing short, so he came back on short rest and pitched six scoreless frames Tuesday.

Price (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

The Red Sox don’t have a closer and it showed on Tuesday night, when they blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning and lost 7-5. Matt Barnes has been their most consistent reliever and will likely see the highest leverage spots.

Brasier blew the aforementioned three-run lead Tuesday in just three batters, though he’ll be fresh for this series. Travis Lakins was sent down after taking the loss.

Boston has an eight-man pen for the moment. RHPs Brandon Workman and Markus Walden handle middle relief behind Barnes and Brasier. RHP Heath Hembree sees primarily low leverage spots while RHP Colton Brewer and LHP Josh Taylor took on mop-up duty in Wednesday’s loss after a call-up earlier in the day.

Hector Velazquez, who also pitched Wednesday, sees mop-up and long relief duties after his ERA balooned in the rotation.

Keys to watch:

Bullpen game vs. Boston
On either Friday or Saturday, the Yankees are going to try a bullpen game/opener strategy against the Red Sox. They’ve already done it against competent offenses in San Diego and Tampa, but this is a real test. Can David Hale or Chance Adams hold up against this lineup?

Sale and Price in the Bronx
Their stocks have gone in opposite directions this season, but each has seen their fair share of struggles at Yankee Stadium in recent years. Can the Yankees get to them without some of their big righty bats? I think so.

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2 Comments

  1. Ike

    Great preview Steven, thanks! It would be helpful to see the HR numbers for the players in the projected lineups.

  2. Gonzo The Great

    Hey remember when Rafael Devers was Michael Chavis? Those were good times.

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