By: Andrew Tashian
This weekend, the AL East leading and defending champion Boston Red Sox will face the New York Yankees for their 13th, 14th & 15th meeting of the 2017 campaign. Although NYY holds a 7-5 record against Boston, the Sox are coming off a series win against them in the Bronx last weekend.
The Red Sox have been scorching hot. Winners in 8 of their last 10 and 14 of their last 20, they look to extend their 4 game lead over The Evil Empire. They own the best home record of any AL team[38-21], but heading into the weekend the Sox are just 25-23 against divisional opponents. A statistic that'll surely see meaningful change as their next 19 of 23 games are against AL East teams.
Andrew Benintendi had the series of his life in the Bronx last weekend, becoming the first rookie in The Rivalry to have a 2 HR & 6 RBI game, and Future HOFer Rafael Devers had his first Rivalry Moment launching a game tying HR in the 9th inning off of Chapman on Sunday.
Devers and Benintendi finished 9-for-24 with 4 HR and 12 RBI in the 3 game series.
The timing of this series couldn't be better for Boston. A season high 17 games over .500 at home and coming off a euphoric night at Fenway Park, Boston looks to carry that feeling into, what they hope can be, a stranglehold on the division. If they don't, at the very least, win this series, it'll leave the door wide open for New York.
Handing the ball to the left handed throwing duo of Drew Pomeranz and, Earth's Best Pitcher, Chris Sale the first two games gives Boston the opportunity to take a 6 game lead into Sunday's series finale. It's worth noting that the Red Sox have not announced a starter for Sunday.
With just a quarter of the season remaining, this is by far the most crucial series of the year, for both teams. Expect a playoff atmosphere, high octane emotions, and an amped up Fenway Park. The Red Sox have been special, as of late, and they know they'll have to continue that to remain relevant in October.
Let's take a closer look at this weekend's pitching match-ups:
LHP Jordan Montgomery [7-6 3.94 ERA] vs LHP Drew Pomeranz [12-4 3.39 ERA]
Friday night's pitching battle will feature Boston's second best SP this season, Drew Pomeranz vs Yankees rookie Jordan Montgomery. You may remember Montgomery made his start last weekend, against Boston, after getting hit in the head during BP the day before.
Both pitchers are coming off decent outings, but over their last 7 games overall, they're very different pitchers:
Pomeranz - 4-0 - 2.91 ERA - 40 K - 43.1 IP
Montgomery - 1-2 - 3.80 ERA 32 K - 34 IP
Montgomery was hit really hard the last time out vs the Sox, but managed to only give up 1 ER while taking the no decision. The Red Sox will look to do a lot more damage vs Montgomery, certainly more than the errant batting practice ball did.
Pomeranz will look to control the middle of the Yankee lineup, specifically C Gary Sanchez & SS Didi Gregorious. Sanchez has 3 career HR & Gregorious is batting .471 against Big Smooth. Drew has pitched well against NYY going 2-0, striking out 27 in 26.2 innings in his last 5 games.
LHP CC Sabathia [9-5 4.05 ERA] vs LHP Chris Sale [14-4 2.51 ERA]
Saturday's pitching match-up has the potential to be Must See Television.
Coming into the weekend the Sox have a 13-13 record vs LHP this season and two of those L's have come at the hands of Sabathia. Despite his 4.05 ERA, CC has beat the Sox twice and hasn't allowed a run in either start. Notably, Sabathia is 49-21 in his career in the month of August, however, this will be his first start coming off the 10 Day DL with right knee inflammation.
Thursday night's hero, Mookie Betts, is looking forward to seeing CC on Saturday. Boston's superstar RF has excellent numbers against Sabathia posting a .353 BA, highest among any Sox player. After his two out, two run, two bagger that gave Boston their 9th walk-off win of the season, Mookie Betts is prepared to take this momentum into the battleground known as the American League Pennant Race.
JBJ will probably sit on Saturday, he's 4-for-24 [.192] with 11 K against Sabathia.
Hanley, too, possibly. 2-for-16 [.125]
"He's having the best season I've ever seen [from a pitcher]" - Pedro Martinez, on Chris Sale.
Chris Sale has been the best pitcher in all of baseball this season. Despite going 0-1 in his last 3 vs NYY, he's posted a 1.19 ERA and has 35 K in just 22.2 IP. Striking out at least 10 batters in 3 straight vs NYY, he'll be seeking his 5th career win, but 1st as a Red Sox.
Sale leads baseball in Innings Pitched [168.1], Strikeouts , & K/9IP [12.8] and also leads the AL in Wins [tied for 1st with 14], ERA [2.51] & WAR for Pitchers [5.6] and is second in 10 strikeout games for a pitcher in Red Sox history. A record that Pedro Martinez set. A record that will probably be broken.
His last 7 games have been stellar:
3-1 - 2.27 ERA - 47.2 IP - 75 K - 9 BB
Those walks have become a minor issue for the likely AL Cy Young recently, but the strikeouts are climbing, the records are breaking and the opposing teams are shaking. Especially Aaron Judge. The Yankees rookie RF, and probable AL Rookie of Year, is 0-for-7 with 6 K vs Chris Sale.
A statistic that'll likely worsen before it gets better.
RHP Sonny Gray [7-7 3.37 ERA] vs RHP Doug Fister [2-6 5.56 ERA]
The Yankees will send one of their trade-deadline winning acquisitions[deep. strong eye roll], Sonny Gray, to the mound in the series finale. Gray is coming off his first win as a Yankee, but is 0-1 with a 8.38 ERA in his two starts at Fenway Park. Mitch Moreland will be happy to see Sonny Gray this weekend having hit 4 HR with 6 RBI in 20 career AB against the Yankee right hander.
In all likelihood, the Red Sox will send struggling Doug Fister to the mound on Sunday. Some speculate that it could be Rick Porcello, who leads the ML in losses , but Porcello has good numbers against CLE who the Sox play a four game series against starting Monday.
Doug Fister just needs to keep the game close as, coming into the weekend, NYY is just 14-21 in one run games & 30-33 away from the Bronx. With David Price still experiencing some issues and discomfort in his recent attempt to get healthy, the Red Sox will have to legitimately look to Pawtucket if the Doug Fister experiment ceases to continue. Another poor performance could easily be Fister's last in a Boston uniform.
Overall, I believe Boston comes into the weekend as favorites. They send their two best pitchers to the mound, they've got a ton of spirit & momentum and they've been superb at home. How the games play out is yet to be seen, but knowing what we know, the Red Sox have to be feeling good.
Photo: (New York Post)