When I previewed the 2021 Red Sox team back in March, it’s possible that I gave them too little credit for the roster they started the season with. Coming off an atrocious 2020 season, many were not really expecting the Red Sox to contend in the East this year, focusing more on the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays.
It’s still early, but as the Yankees enter their first series of the season against their historic rival, there they are, contending. The Sox have actually spent much of the season in first place, but were recently overtaken by the streaking Rays. The Yankees are currently looking up at Boston and Tampa in the standings, but are running just 2.5 games behind the Sox, so this first New York-Boston series of the season is a big one for both clubs.
Their Story So Far
The Red Sox’ turnaround from their last-place 2020 hasn’t really featured many surprises, but has mostly been due to players who were supposed to be good returning to form. Boston has the fifth-most runs scored in the AL, and the people who are expected to hit well have, thus far, hit well. Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts have put up OPS+ marks of 154 and 149, respectively, and J.D. Martinez has bounced back in a big way from an awful 2020 to put up a 162 OPS+ with 12 home runs.
The pitching has been slightly above league average overall. While there have been no real standounds, 4/5ths of the Red Sox rotation has been consistently good. Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Richards, Nick Pivetta, and Martin Perez have all made ten or more starts with ERAs sitting around 4 or below. Matt Barnes has been excellent in the closer role, and Adam Ottavino, Hirokazu Sawamura, and Darwinzon Hernandez have all been respectable in middle relief.
So far the 2021 Red Sox have been a testament to what can happen when your players do what they’re supposed to do. Hopefully the Yankees can start to follow suit starting this weekend.
|Zac Grotz||RP||Elbow||Out until at least mid-June|
|Ryan Brasier||RP||Calf||Out until at least mid-June|
|Matt Carasiti||RP||Elbow||Out until at least early-June|
|Chris Sale||SP||Elbow||Out until at least July|
Spotlight: Rafael Devers
It seems like Rafael Devers has been around forever, but the Red Sox star is still only 24 years old. While he had a pretty good year in 2020, he has exploded so far in 2021, hitting a team-leading 14 home runs and slashing .279/.351/.584 through his first 52 games this year. He currently leads the American League in doubles (18) and total extra base hits (32), is third in OPS at .935, is tied for fourth in home runs, and is seventh in offensive WAR at 2.2. He’s also third in all of baseball in barrels/plate appearance and seventh in hard-hit percentage, indicating that he hasn’t just been lucking into his success this year.
Devers has also proven himself to be one of the primary keys to the Red Sox lineup – as he goes, so goes the team. In Boston wins, Devers’ OPS is 1.128, while it’s only .650 in their losses. So far in his career, his numbers against the New York have not been eye-popping, with a .728 OPS and a .297 OBP over 52 games, so the Yankees will have to hope that they can keep up that relative success against him during what appears to be a breakout season.
- Enrique Hernandez, CF (.228/.284/.383, 83 OPS+)
- Alex Verdugo, LF (.286/.347/.453, 120 OPS+)
- JD Martinez, DH (.322/.391/.571, 163 OPS+)
- Xander Bogaerts, SS (.312/.373/.538, 149 OPS+)
- Rafael Devers, 3B (.279/.351/.584, 154 OPS+)
- Hunter Renfroe, RF (.261/.301/.460, 107 OPS+)
- Bobby Dalbec, 1B (.197/.248/.367, 68 OPS+)
- Christian Vasquez, C (.251/.294/.359, 81 OPS+)
- Marwin Gonzalez, 2B (.190/.281/.272, 55 OPS+)
Friday June 4, 7:05pm
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Former Yankee Eovaldi is 6-2 this year with a 4.01 ERA, striking out 58 in 60.2 innings. He had a solid showing last week against the Marlins, striking out seven over 4.1 scoreless innings. (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Michael King
Michael King is making his second appearance as a starter this year after beginning the season in the bullpen. He has generally pitched quite well this year, but took the loss last week against Detroit, giving up four runs (2 earned) in 2.1 innings. (Stats vs. Red Sox)
Friday June 5, 7:15pm
LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
After missing all of the 2020 season due to complications from COVID, Rodriguez has struggled at the beginning of the year. He is coming off a streak of four consecutive losses, including a 4.2 inning, six run showing last week against Houston. (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Jameson Taillon
Taillon has scuffled this year, entering June with a 1-4 record and a 5.10 ERA. However, his last start against Detroit was decent, as he surrendered three runs in five innings and struck out five, and in his previous start he held the White Sox scoreless over five. (Stats vs. Red Sox)
Sunday June 6, 7:08pm
RHP Garrett Richards
Richards has posted a respectable 116 ERA+ this year despite a 4-4 record. He took a tough-luck loss against Houston last week despite holding the Astros to 2 runs in 6 innings. A key for him will be limiting his walks, as he currently averages 4.5 free passes per 9 innings. (Stats vs. Yankees)
RHP Domingo Germán
German has continued pitching well this season, coming into the series with a 3.27 ERA over 10 starts. He has been particularly good at keeping runners off the basepaths this year, pitching to a 1.036 WHIP and walking only 1.6 batters per 9. (Stats vs. Red Sox)
The Red Sox bullpen comes into the series pretty well rested; the Yankees, less so. Seems fun.