It is time for the most important series of the year. After yesterday’s much needed off-day following the 20 game in 20 day stretch, the Yankees shipped up to Boston for a crucial weekend series that has huge Wild Card implications. The Yankees are riding high going into this one following the sweep of Texas, and believe it or not, they are 7-3 in their last 10 games. I don’t know about you, but that sweep was quite calming after the debacle against Cleveland over the weekend. The Yankees find themselves 2 games back of Boston for that first Wild Card spot, so let’s hope they can take care of business this weekend and either tighten up that race or outright take the first spot for themselves.
Tag: Xander Bogaerts
(Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect both J.A. Happ and David Price being placed on the paternity list.)
The Yankees have a seven-game lead in the AL East, but they hold a 10.5-game advantage on the Red Sox. After losing three of four to the Sox last weekend, this is their latest opportunity to knock Boston fully out of the division chase.
Since They Last Met
Boston didn’t fare well in their brief hiatus from the rivalry. The Rays swept the Red Sox in a three-game set at Fenway that ended Thursday, meaning the Sox come in without the day of rest the Yankees enjoyed.
The Sox are in a perilous spot. They’re 3.5 games back of Tampa Bay in the second wild card spot and would have to jump both Oakland and Tampa to make the postseason.
With Boston bumping up near the top luxury tax threshold and the division basically out of reach, the team chose not to add at Wednesday’s deadline. Dave Dombrowski chalked it up more to the latter, meaning the Yankees played a prime role in Boston’s decision not to buy.
Dombrowski admitted not having a realistic chance to win the division played a big part in his decision not to make a deal.— Ian Browne (@IanMBrowne) July 31, 2019
LHP Brian Johnson is on rehab assignment and should be back for this series. Meanwhile, 1B Steve Pearce and RHP Steven Wright are still a ways off in their respective rehabs. UPDATE: RHP Heath Hembree was added to the 10-day IL this morning.
Dustin Pedroia remains out for the season with a left knee injury.
Player Spotlight: Xander Bogaerts
While the Red Sox suffered a 9-4 loss last night, Xander Bogaerts had himself one of his finer games of the season. He launched a pair of home runs while going 4-for-4 with a double as well.
At age 26, Bogaerts has taken the step from mere All-Star to star. He leads baseball this season with 37 doubles and has already exceeded his career-high in home runs (23 last year) with 25 thus far. He’s batting a healthy .320/.399/.587 with a 153 wRC+ and 5.5 fWAR (4.1 bWAR) in just 106 games.
Some of his breakout occurred last season; Bogaerts had a 134 wRC+ last year and established career bests in exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and walk rate. This season, he’s simply taken that to another level, and it’s earned him at-bats higher in the Red Sox’s potent lineup.
Unfortunately for New York, he has saved his best for the Yankees. In 11 games, he’s batting .413/.438/.870 with five homers and six doubles against the Bombers.
- Mookie Betts, RF (.289/.395/.506, 132 wRC+)
- Rafael Devers, 3B (.327/.377/.571, 142 wRC+)
- Xander Bogaerts, SS (.320/.399/.587, 153 wRC+)
- J.D. Martinez, DH (.295/.367/.535, 130 wRC+)
- Andrew Benintendi, LF (.286/.361/.469, 101 wRC+)
- Christian Vazquez, C (.278/.318/.481, 101 wRC+)
- Mitch Moreland, 1B (.225/.311/.515, 108 wRC+)
- Michael Chavis, 2B (.260/.330/.458, 102 wRC+)
- Jackie Bradley Jr., CF (.226/.320/.394, 85 wRC+)
Off the bench, Boston has C Sandy Leon (47 wRC+), UTIL Brock Holt (110 wRC+) and 1B/OF Sam Travis (85 wRC+). In addition to Bogaerts and Benintendi, Travis has been one of Boston’s best hitters recently, sporting a 186 wRC+ in 13 June games.
Likely Pitching Matchups
(They haven’t yet announced starters for the second Saturday game, nor the Red Sox’s starter for the first Saturday game. I’m simply making an educated guess.)
Between last weekend and London, Eduardo Rodriguez has been Boston’s best starter against the Yankees this season. The left-hander has allowed five runs over 11 innings and worked around seven walks in those outings.
Overall, he’s been on a tear. He’s won his last seven decisions and the Sox have won eight of his past nine appearances, the lone loss being his London start. He had the 10th best ERA in baseball in July with a 2.03 mark, though his underlying performance was more suspect (4.28 FIP). For the season, he has a 4.13 ERA and 4.29 DRA, but sports a 13-4 record.
Rodriguez remains a fastball-cutter-changeup pitcher, with an emphasis on the four-seamer and changeup.
Sale has labored through three defeats against the Yankees this season, with his most recent defeat coming on Sunday night. It was a pair of unlikely home run hitters that did him in: Austin Romine launching a 446-ft blast and Didi Gregorius becoming the first lefty to homer off Sale this season.
There are plenty of Yankees who have good numbers against the lanky lefty, including Aaron Hicks and Edwin Encarnacion. Romine and Gregorius joined Clint Frazier and DJ LeMahieu as Yankees to take him deep this year. However, Sale tends to hold Aaron Judge down with 16 strikeouts in 30 PAs.
As I mentioned last time, Sale’s velocity remains down this season, though it’s not down enough that he can’t get swings and misses off his four-seamer and slider. He’s still effective but not quite the ace of 2018’s first half.
Saturday Game 2 (7:05 PM ET) Opener/TBD vs. Brian Johnson (vs. Yankees)
Johnson is likely to come off the IL to make the start, although the left-hander is unlikely to make a full start. He was stretched out to three innings in the Minors and could throw about 4-5 innings, according to Alex Cora. He may also be in relief instead with a more traditional bullpen game for Game 2.
The 28-year-old lefty was a key swingman for Boston last season, getting by with OK stuff to post a 4.17 ERA over 99.1 IP. This season, he’s been limited to just 14 innings and has a 6.43 ERA in that time including three home runs and 22 hits.
Sporting a high-80s fastball, Johnson has moved away from his heater and gone to his curveball just as often this season, with his slider not too far behind. His slider gets the most swings and misses while the fastball and curve have been hit hard at times this season.
Sunday (7:05 PM ET) TBD (J.A. Happ on paternity list) vs. TBD (David Price on paternity list)
David Price was initially scheduled to make this start, but he has been placed on the paternity list. This season, he’s been good overall but hasn’t been the same in recent games. Boston has lost his last four starts in which batters are hitting .301/.370/.614 against him. Over those four starts, he’s struck out 28 batters over 19.1 IP, yet he’s allowed six home runs. He’s in a clear funk.
Aaron Boone stated that Happ is expected to still make his Sunday start. No word yet on Price. This has the potential to lead to a mess of a game on Sunday night. Both teams will likely exhaust their bullpens during a doubleheader Saturday which will probably feature a bullpen game in Game 2. Could this become Chance Adams vs. Hector Velasquez? Or yet another bullpen game? Your guess is as good as mine.
In their loss last night, the Red Sox used Darwinzon Hernandez, Colten Brewer and Heath Hembree in relief, so the rest of their bullpen should be fresh.
Matt Barnes has had newfound success after a dreadful London Series. Meanwhile, Brandon Workman and Nathan Eovaldi appear to be the primary late-innings options for the Sox, though they didn’t have to hold down a close lead in Boston last weekend.
Cora is trying to use the rookie Hernandez in more high leverage spots despite his command issues. Beyond them, Josh Smith and Marcus Walden see fairly regular use with Walden getting more high leverage spots thanks to a successful first full season.