Boston Red Sox Series Preview: 7-25 to 7-28

Mr. Steal Your Girl/Division (MLB Gif)

For the first time in 2019, the Yankees visit Fenway Park. Their previous road games against the Red Sox were in London, where they scored 29 runs. Can they get more of the same in Boston?

Their Story Thus Far

The defending World Series champs come into this pre-deadline series at 56-47, 11 games behind the Yankees in the division and two games back of the second Wild Card. Unlike Tampa Bay, which is a game ahead of them, the Red Sox can get back in the division race without help — they play the Yankees 12 times the rest of the year and eight times in the next two weeks.

The Red Sox have taken a step back from otherworldly offense to merely very good. They rank sixth in wRC+, fourth in position player WAR and fifth in slugging percentage. Since London, their offense is behind only the Astros, Twins and Yankees.

Meanwhile, their pitching staff has weighed them down even since the acquisition of Andrew Cashner and return of Nathan Eovaldi. The Sox are 18th in ERA and 25th in July thanks to sky-high walk and home run rates. While the Yankees have a 1.84 bullpen ERA this month despite their struggles in Minnesota, the Red Sox have a 5.70 mark.

Injury Report

Relievers Steven Wright and Brian Johnson are on the 10-day IL, though Johnson began a rehab assignment last weekend. 1B Steve Pearce has both a back and left knee strain, so he’s on the shelf, while backup 1B/2B Michael Chavis has been dealing with back spasms, taking him out of the lineup in St. Pete.

Dustin Pedroia is out for the season with a left knee injury.

Player Spotlight: Rafael Devers

I’m going to anger many of you when I say this: Rafael Devers is what Yankee fans thought Miguel Andujar could become. He’s an on-fire power hitter who has become a passable fielder and puts the ball in play at the plate. At just 22 years old, it’ll be him and Gleyber Torres tormenting their respective rivals for the next decade.

Overall, Devers is hitting .322/.374/.561 this season with 20 homers, 79 RBI and a 139 wRC+, good for 4.0 fWAR. He leads the American League in total bases.

In a classic game of arbitrary endpoints, Devers has a 184 wRC+ since June 11, behind just Yuli Gurriel, Ketel Marte and, of course, Mike Trout. He doesn’t walk much, but he has hit 11 homers in that month-and-a-half span and rarely strikes out.

Devers is in the top five percent of baseball with a 92.8 mph average exit velocity and 49.5 percent hard-hit rate. Even with the Yankees’ parade of left-handed starters, he’ll be a problem this series for New York.

Potential Lineup

  1. Mookie Betts, RF (.281/.392/.476, 126 wRC+)
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B (.322/.374/.561, 139 wRC+)
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.309/.396/.558, 146 wRC+)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (.294/.365/.518, 126 wRC+)
  5. Andrew Benintendi, LF (.266/.346/.424, 101 wRC+)
  6. Mitch Moreland, 1B (.218/.307/.526, 109 wRC+)
  7. Christian Vazquez, C (.287/.329/.500, 109 wRC+)
  8. Brock Holt, 2B (.336/.389/.438, 118 wRC+)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.224/.322/.394, 86 wRC+)

Holt has been carrying one of the Sox’s hottest bats while Bogaerts and Devers have been Boston’s top hitters. The Sox can bring Travis or Chavis into the lineup to split up lefties and move Vazquez between Benintendi and Moreland.

Off the bench, the Red Sox have backup catcher Sandy Leon (46 wRC+), INF Michael Chavis (100 wRC+) and INF/OF Sam Travis (40 wRC+).

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7:10 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Red Sox) vs. Rick Porcello (vs. Yankees)

Here’s the last time Porcello faced the Yankees:

Oh no! It hasn’t gotten much better this month. Though he’s lasted through at least five innings in his last three starts, all wins, he’s also has an 8.64 ERA and a .354/.378/.658 batting line against in that span.

Even if the ball is moving more than in London, he’s still been lackluster at best this year, the final season on his four-year extension with the Red Sox. Still, he’s gotten the best of the Yankees as recently as October and can be effective when getting out of the first inning.

Porcello (Baseball Savant)

Friday (7:10 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. Red Sox) vs. Andrew Cashner (vs. Yankees)

The newest Red Sox pitcher is Andrew Cashner, who the Yankees are plenty familiar with after his days with the Orioles. Fun fact: Cashner would have refused to play for the Yankees if traded to New York as he does not want to shave his beard. Weird, but you do you, man!

In two starts with the Sox, he’s allowed 10 runs (9 earned) in 11 innings with four home runs against the Jays and O’s. He’s been OK against the Yankees this season, producing two quality starts and getting shelled once on short rest. Even last season, when he was scuffling with the O’s, he still had an OK 4.26 ERA in four starts against the pinstripers.

The 32-year-old starter has changed his repertoire this season by almost eliminating his sinker and instead going all-in on his fastball-changeup combination, though he’ll still drop in a curveball or slider. The changeup is his most effective pitch, though the Yankees’ right-heavy lineup neutralizes that to an extent.

Cashner (Baseball Savant)

Saturday (4:05 PM ET) CC Sabathia (vs. Red Sox) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. Yankees)

Rodriguez was the only effective starter in the London Series, allowing just two runs in the Sunday finale, which is his only appearance against the Yankees this season. The southpaw has a 12-4 record with good peripherals, sporting a 4.10 ERA, 4.17 FIP and 4.16 xFIP.

This month, E-Rod has been the Red Sox’s finest pitcher, sporting a 1.42 ERA over 25.1 innings in four starts. While he’s walked 10 batters, he’s only allowed 14 hits and struck out 24 batters. Those four starts include seven-inning starts against the Dodgers and Rays.

Rodriguez is still primarily a fastball-cutter-changeup pitcher, though he’s introduced more a sinker this season. His changeup remains his best primary offering.

E-Rod (Baseball Savant)

Sunday (7:05 PM ET) Domingo German (vs. Red Sox) vs. Chris Sale (vs. Yankees)

Sale on Sunday Night Baseball. Couldn’t have lined it up any better for entertainment purposes.

So far this season, Sale has lost both his outings against the Yankees, though both took place at Yankee Stadium. In a decided down year for the Red Sox’s ace, he sports a 4.00 ERA with rising walk and home run rates leading to maddeningly inconsistent results for Boston.

Sometimes, you still see old Sale, as in his past two starts, where he struck out 22 batters in 12 frames and beat back the Jays and Rays. Sometimes, you’ll see him give up more contact and power, as in his first two starts this month, when the Dodgers and very same Jays tagged him for 10 runs in 10.1 innings.

He’s throwing his slider more than ever — nearly 40 percent of the time — while cutting down on his fastball, which is still down in velocity this season. The 1-2 mph he’s lost on his pitches has made him more hittable and thus led to his frustrating results.

Sale (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

¯_(ツ)_/¯

The inner machinations of the Red Sox’s bullpen are an enigma. Though Eovaldi is back and could be their closer, Brandon Workman and Marcus Walden closed down Boston’s most recent victory. At various times, Matt Barnes has been in late-game spots, as has Colten Brewer.

Rookie southpaw Darwinzon Hernandez is a new face with lots of strikeouts and walks to add to the mix. Fellow lefty Josh Taylor has occasionally seen high-leverage spots, while Heath Hembree gets most low leverage.

Still, if you’re trying to predict who goes in when outside of Workman in big spots, you’re playing a fool’s game. The Sox could use about three more relievers if they want to advance in October.

Yankees connections

First off, pour some out for Eduardo Nunez, who the Red Sox released recently. He provided many gems like this:

And this:

On the active roster, Eovaldi is a former Yankees starter while Colten Brewer reached the high Minors with the Bombers, though never made the Majors. Pearce can’t torment the Yankees, who got rid of him quickly in 2012, this weekend as he’s on the IL.

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1 Comment

  1. Brian M

    #### the Red Sox

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