Boston Red Sox Series Preview: 9/6 to 9/9

J.D. and Bogaerts (MLB Gifs)

For the final time this season, the Yankees and Red Sox renew the rivalry, playing a wraparound series at Fenway Park.

Since They Last Met

At 75-65, the Red Sox are just about out of the postseason picture. They sit 6.5 games back of the second wild card with just 22 games to go and their starting pitching is in shambles. Their playoff odds sit at 3.5 percent on Fangraphs. They are just 4-11 against the Yankees and would be mathematically eliminated from the division if they lose three of four.

Back to that starting rotation, Chris Sale is out for the year. David Price a recurrence of his wrist injury and will miss this series. Rick Porcello is making J.A. Happ look like Clayton Kershaw. Nathan Eovaldi has just gotten stretched back out after missing most of the season.

Meanwhile, their lineup is still elite with a collective 110 wRC+, fifth-best in baseball. They trail just the Astros, Twins, Yankees and Dodgers in that category.

Injury Report

Sale and Price are out for this series while Steven Wright, Steve Pearce and Dustin Pedroia are on the 60-day IL. Michael Chavis had a setback in his rehab and Heath Hembree is dealing with elbow inflammation, so they’re both out as well.

Player Spotlight: J.D. Martinez

Since the start of the last Yankees-Red Sox series at Fenway Park (July 25), Martinez has resumed his spot as one of the best hitters in baseball. To that point, he’d been simply very good, but he hadn’t produced on the level of his 2017-18 campaigns.

In 36 games, he’s batting a monstrous .360/.442/748 with 14 home runs and a a 197 wRC+. He’s fifth in wRC+ and tied for third in homers in that span, helping keep the Red Sox’s wild card hopes just barely alive.

Now comes the hard question: Will Martinez opt out? With his frontloaded contract he signed before the 2018 season, he has an average of $20.82 million per season coming to him over the next three years. He can opt out after each of the next three seasons.

While he’s hit incredibly well, Martinez is on the wrong side of 30, doesn’t add anything defensively and (I believe) could be slapped with a qualifying offer by Boston, thus hurting his leverage on the free-agent market.

Even with all of that in mind, that opt-out has to be extremely enticing as he’s still one of the best hitters in the game. We’ve seen Nelson Cruz provide tremendous production as a DH only for years into his late 30s, and Martinez should be able to do the same.

The Red Sox are up against the top luxury tax tier and will be on the lookout for pitching, so they may not re-sign Martinez if he opts out. But losing his bat would be a significant loss for them, so he has leverage here.

Potential Lineup

  1. Mookie Betts, RF (.291/.389/.524, 133 wRC+)
  2. Rafael Devers, 3B (.316/.364/.570, 136 wRC+)
  3. Xander Bogaerts, SS (.310/.387/.573, 145 wRC+)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (.312/.387/.580, 145 wRC+)
  5. Andrew Benintendi, LF (.280/.356/.460, 111 wRC+)
  6. Brock Holt, 2B (.318/.390/.443, 118 wRC+)
  7. Mitch Moreland, 1B (.239/.330/.487, 108 wRC+)
  8. Christian Vazquez, C (.274/.311/.468, 95 wRC+)
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.220/.317/.408, 86 wRC+)

On the bench, the Red Sox have two backup catchers in Sandy Leon (35 wRC+) and Juan Centeno (9 wRC+) as well as two utility infielders in Chris Owings (1 wRC+) and Marco Hernandez (99 wRC+). Sam Travis (76 wRC+) can play both first base and corner outfield, while Gorkys Hernandez (0-for-6) backs up the outfield.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7:10 PM ET) Domingo German (vs. Red Sox) vs. Bullpen
Saturday (4:05 PM ET) J.A. Happ (vs. Red Sox) vs. Bullpen

Friday’s game was supposed to be Price’s start, but it’ll now be back-to-back bullpen games for the Red Sox. As you’ll see in the bullpen status below, they have more than enough arms to throw at this. Quality arms? Remains to be seen.

Brewers Opening Day starter Jhoulys Chacin could open or get bulk innings Friday after getting DFA’d by the Brewers following his ERA ballooning to 5.79 this season. Left-hander Brian Johnson also pitched four innings behind Price last week after starting against the Yankees in August.

Beyond that duo, Hector Velazquez, Andrew Cashner and Ryan Weber are among the multiple-inning options. These games could reach slog status quickly.

Sunday (8:05 PM ET) Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Red Sox) vs. Rick Porcello (vs. Yankees)

Rick Porcello is having the opposite of a good contract year as he finishes up a four-year, $82.5 million extension signed in 2015. The right-hander has a career-worst 5.63 ERA in his age-30 season, leading the American League in earned runs allowed.

The New Jersey product has allowed 28 homers and seen both his walk and strikeout rates worsen. His fastball is practically the same velocity as a year ago, but he’s not getting as many swings and misses.

Porcello is coming off a start where he allowed six runs in four innings to the Twins. He’s faced the Yankees three times this year. He tossed a quality start at Fenway in July, got shellacked in the London Series and was victimized by Gary Sanchez in early June.

Porcello (Baseball Savant)

Monday (7:10 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. Red Sox) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (vs. Yankees)

The 26-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez has been far and away Boston’s best starter this year, simply by staying healthy and producing up to his own standards. He has a 3.81 ERA (128 ERA+) in 29 starts, tossing a career-high 172 2/3 innings and striking out 168 batters.

Like Porcello, the southpaw has seen his strikeout rate decline this season, but he’s made up for it by drawing soft contact at an impressive rate. His 28 percent hard-hit rate allowed is in the top four percent of the league, while his 85.7 mph avg exit velocity is also elite. He’s also increased his groundball rate.

On the rotation side of things, he’s the only major positive for the Red Sox this year. Their top veterans got hurt again, their free-agent-to-be has been a mess and their fill-in pitchers have fared worse. Rodriguez, under contract for a few more seasons, is a bright spot for Boston to hold onto.

Rodriguez (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

The Red Sox have 21 pitchers on their active roster, and 17 of those are in their bullpen. I ran through their long relievers up above, but they have way too many relievers on the whole to detail.

Brandon Workman has emerged as an elite reliever this year as he goes to his curveball more than ever before. Fangraphs detailed his success last week.

They still have Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier and Colten Brewer in middle relief, though Barnes hasn’t been effective since his scoreless July. The pitcher who is the most intriguing is Darwinzon Herandez, a 22-year-old lefty who the Yankees have seen a few times this year. He essentially either strikes out or walks every hitter, with few other outcomes.

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5 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    Price seems to come up with an injury before a Yankees series a lot over the last few years. The Red Sox long term pitching is a mess – three injury prone starters making ~80M/yr. ERod is going to start making some decent arb money as well. And assuming they let Porcello walk, they have no 5th starter and no real prospects in the near term pipeline.

    Can’t see JDM opting out of 3/63M, is he really going to do much better than that? He’s an AL only player and most of the big market teams have solutions or bigger needs to spend money on. Also EE will be on the market (I assume) and likely be much cheaper and probably fewer years. Castellenos too.

  2. RetroRob

    The Red Sox issue this year hasn’t been offense. Meh starters and a poorly constructed bullpen (a DD specialty) have turned them into a much more beatable teams. I suspect Sale’s best days are behind him. He may have avoided TJS for now, but he’s not the dominant pitcher he was a couple years back. That’s good news for the Yankees as his new contract has just kicked in.

    • CountryClub

      This isn’t a second guess by me, I thought that was an awful deal they gave him as soon as it was announced. I realize I’m not alone there. But yikes, that was a bad contract.

  3. mikenyc2007

    be nice to stick a fork in them. let the other 3 teams exhaust themselves over the next 3 weeks and not have to worry about Boston, who always can go on an offensive tear for a few games and ruin any series for an opponent.

  4. CountryClub

    Finish them. 3 of 4 should do it.

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