Yankees-Sox Series Preview: AL East Rivals to Brawl in the Bronx
- Things got testy the last time the Yankees and Red Sox met.
- Since then, both teams have been playing exceptionally well and are within one game of each other in the standings.
- The Yankees have the edge in the pitching matchups for this series, but will it be enough to take the series against their hated rival?
The Yankees and Red Sox kick off a three-game series in the Bronx on Tuesday night. This will be the first meeting since the benches cleared twice in Beantown in their first series of the season.
Boston won that series 2-1, but the Yankees have won 18 of 21 since to pull within one game of the division lead. All eyes will be on Aaron Boone to see if he retaliates, or sweeps the incidents under the rug to avoid messing with the Yanks’ current streak. I’m not sure why he’d want to get in the way of what the Bronx Bombers have done recently, outscoring opponents 98-37 over their past 16 games.
The best rivalry in baseball — and maybe all of sports — with a little extra drama? Check. Two teams with the most wins in the league? Check. Two offenses that rank 1-2 in runs? Check. You can’t ask for anything more from an early May MLB series.
In today’s MLB preview, we will take a look at the entire Yankees-Sox series, evaluating the starting pitching matchups, bullpens, offensive stars, trends and any plays we like. Make sure to check back throughout the series for market info and updated analysis/picks. Let’s get to it.
Both sharp sides hit in game one, as reverse line movement on both the Yankees and under wound up being right. In game 2, the Red Sox are once again a trendy dog getting more than 60% of moneyline bets. Interestingly enough, they are much smaller dogs with Rick Porcello starting instead of David Price. When the game was taken off the board yesterday when Price was scratched, the line was NYY -177, BOS +152. It reopened at NYY -137, BOS +117.
Though the Sox are getting the majority of bets, the Yankees have remained near their “re-opened” number. There isn’t a ton of market agreement, as some books have moved the line a few cents towards Boston and other moving a few cents towards New York, showing that a “sharp” side may be non-existent for this game. — Mark Gallant
Their offenses get all of the pub, but both teams have above-average starting rotations — as you can see from the summary below.
Let’s take a closer look at the three projected starting pitcher matchups for this series.
Game 1: Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14 ERA) at Luis Severino (5-1, 2.11 ERA)
Poly-Pomeranz: As a Sox fan, I’m a little afraid for Pomeranz, in general and especially for his Tuesday night start. He has an ERA over six in his first three starts, but I’m most alarmed by his reduced velocity — by far the lowest of his career. His average fastball speed of 89.44 mph is more than 2 mph slower than last year. Opponents have also made contact at nearly an 85% clip, more than 7% higher than in 2017. He’s also inducing the fewest grounders of his career.
Though some of you don’t care about stats over such a small sample, I feel as if these particular splits speak more to his health, which appears to be less than 100%. If Pomeranz hasn’t made any steps in the right direction since his last start, the Yankees’ bats may tee off against him. — Mark Gallant
Yes, Pomeranz has struggled on the mound, but he does have a 3-2 record with a solid 3.12 ERA at Yankee Stadium in his career.
Right-handed pitchers have had no fun against the Red Sox in 2018, going a combined 1-15 with a 7.48 ERA. That’s insane! Luckily for Boston, it will face two righties in this series with Severino and Masahiro Tanaka. — Paul Lo Duca
Game 2: Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14 ERA) at Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39 ERA)
Slick Rick: Porcello owns right-handed batters, which really helps against the Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup that already lost to Porcello once this year. The Sox right-hander has been solid as a rock, allowing three earned runs or fewer in all seven 2018 starts. He’s pitched into the sixth inning in each one. — Paul Lo Duca
Trending Up: Tanaka has sparkled in his last three starts, allowing just five total earned runs over 18.2 innings — with 19 strikeouts and just four walks. Consequently, his ERA has plummeted from 6.04 to 4.39 over that period.
His ERA suffered early on thanks to the Red Sox, who got him for seven runs (six earned) in just five innings last month. In 15 career starts against Boston, the Yankees right-hander has an 8-4 record with a 4.04 ERA.
Pay extra attention to Tanaka when J.D. Martinez steps up to the plate. The Red Sox right fielder is 7-for-12 (.583) lifetime with three bombs against Masahiro. The rest of Boston’s current healthy lineup hasn’t had much success against the Japanese pitcher, hitting a combined 51-for-230 or .222. — Stuckey
Game 3: Eduardo Rodriguez (3-0, 5.29 ERA) at CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.39 ERA)
Sabathia Stadium: Dating back to last season, including the playoffs, Sabathia has absolutely dominated in his last six home starts. He has allowed only three total earned runs (all solo homers) in his past 32 innings at Yankee Stadium — good for an ERA of 0.84. In fact, Sabathia has not allowed an earned run in three consecutive home starts for the first time in more than 260 career home starts. Pretty impressive. — Evan Abrams
While the Red Sox are 15-1 against right-handed starters, they are just 10-8 against lefties. — Paul Lo Duca
Anchored by two dominant closers, both teams also boast elite bullpens. Shocking, I know.
Cuban Missile: Aroldis Chapman has returned to his old form and leads all relievers in fWAR. He’s striking out two batters per inning, or 18 per nine — a career-best and much higher than his 2017 career-low of 12.34.
I’ll go out on a limb and attribute this to his slider, which he has thrown at a career-high rate of 27.1%. With his fastball velocity down a tick from a couple of years ago, mixing things up more has made Chapman more effective. With the help of that slider, he’s dropped opponents’ contact rate from 74.1% last year, a career worst, to 57% this year.
The Sox beat the hell out of the southpaw last year. In nine appearances against Boston, Chapman had a 7.27 ERA, 12 strikeouts to 11 walks, and a whopping 2.19 WHIP. He also allowed the legendary ding-dong to Rafael Devers. — Mark Gallant
Peaking Pen: After a rocky beginning, the Boston bullpen has really solidified itself of late. Red Sox relievers have pitched 26.1 innings over the last seven games and have posted a 2.73 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just three walks. — Paul Lo Duca
Craig Kimbrel has also pitched very well this season, converting nine of his 10 save opportunities. The all-time save percentage leader owns a 1.23 ERA and has allowed only two earned runs on two solo shots. Kimbrel has had no issues dealing with current Yankee hitters, who are a combined 3-for-41 (.073) lifetime against the Boston closer. — Stuckey
Didi Gregorius: has slowly but surely started to fall back to earth — as everyone, including Yankee fans, should have expected. Over his past 10 games entering the series, he had a wRC+ (catch-all hitting stat in which 100 is considered average) of just 45. The first 23 games of the year? 231.
His best full-season wRC+ output came last season — when he finished at 107. He obviously would come back to reality after such an unsustainably scorching-hot start. He’ll still produce respectable power numbers — especially at home, where he has nine of his 10 dongs — but he won’t continue to get on base with as much frequency as he did to start the season.
The regression has already started with his walk rate, which sat around 17% a few weeks ago. Remember, this is a player who walked in 4.4% and 3.2% of his plate appearances in 2017 and 2016, respectively. You don’t just magically acquire the eye of Joey Votto over the winter. He has drawn only two walks over his past 10 games, and I expect that walk percentage to continue dropping over the course of the season. — Mark Gallant
Mookie Betts: Mookie Betts is on fire. Over the last 7 days, he’s 8-for-20 with 5 home runs. His current 2.59 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranks second in the league among all players, trailing only Mike Trout’s 3.11. He leads MLB in the following categories:
- Average (.355)
- Runs (36)
- Home runs (13)
- Slugging pct. (.818)
- On-base plus Slugging (1.252)
For your reference, Mike Trout has the second highest slugging percentage at .720 — almost a full 100 basis points behind Betts. Keep an eye on his status however, as he left the game against the Rangers on Sunday with a shoulder contusion. He’s currently listed as day-to-day. — Stuckey
Game 1 Trends
This will mark just the 23rd time of 265 Yankees-Red Sox meetings since 2005 that we will see a favorite listed at -180 or higher. In the previous 22 instances, the chalk went only 12-10 (54.5%). All other favorites of -180 or greater during that span won 67% of their games. — John Ewing
Over the past three seasons, the Red Sox have been listed as an underdog of +150 or higher in 20 games. Boston has a 16-4 record in those spots, netting bettors a profit of 22.4 units. That includes a 5-2 clip against the Yankees in that situation. — Evan Abrams