After a day off that the red-hot Yankees may or may not have wanted, the Bombers welcome in the Red Sox for a three-game series in the Bronx with the division lead on the line. The Yanks have surged to 15 wins in their last 16 games and remarkably still trail the Red Sox by one game in the American League East. After a torrid start to their season, Boston has continued to play solid baseball to hold off the Yankees, at least for now.
The Red Sox eluded a scare on Sunday when Mookie Betts took a ball off the shoulder, but was eventually diagnosed with a contusion and declared day-to-day. According to Boston manager Alex Cora, Betts should be ready to go for the big series.
The Yankees will face southpaw Drew Pomeranz in the series opener on Tuesday night. Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list after suffering a forearm strain in spring training, but returned in late April and has made three starts. After a pair of clunkers, Pomeranz rebounded in his most recent start to toss six innings against the Royals, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. It was certainly an improvement over his first two starts of the year, where he allowed seven runs over 8.2 innings of work.
The Yankees will be a different animal than the Royals, especially Gary Sanchez. In 18 career at-bats against Pomeranz, the catcher has eight hits, three of them home runs. That’s good for a 1.444 OPS. Sanchez is also hitting much better now than he was going into the first series against Boston back in April. It could be a big night for the offense as a whole, as the active Yankees own an .865 composite OPS against Pomeranz.
The Yankees will open with their best in Luis Severino. He struggled in Fenway in his last start against the Red Sox, but that was his only clunker of the season. Severino carries a miniscule 2.11 ERA into the start, but will have to tread carefully with Andrew Benintendi, who is a ridiculous 8-for-16 with a pair of homers and five extra-base hits against him.
David Price takes the rubber for Boston in game two, as if things weren’t looking up for Sanchez already. As good as the Kraken has been against Pomeranz, it pales in comparison to his domination of Price: 6-for-12 with five dingers against the lefty, driving in 11 runs. Considering Price has been tagged in his last two outings, Sanchez has to be looking forward to that matchup.
Masahiro Tanaka has seen a much different trend than Price of late. While Price has struggled badly, Tanaka has been consistently improving. After a frustrating outing against the Marlins back when the Yanks were trying to shake off their frustrating mediocrity, which feels like a long time ago, Tanaka has turned in three straight quality starts, including a three-run performance over six innings against the Astros on Thursday. Still, Tanaka is susceptible to the long ball and will have to keep his splitter down against J.D. Martinez, who is 7-for-12 with three home runs and a pair of doubles in his career against Tanaka.
The toughest assignment for the Yankees’ lineup may be in the series finale against Rick Porcello on Thursday night. The former Cy Young Award winner has been dealing in 2018, turning in quality starts in every outing this year aside from his first start of the season. He tossed seven shutout innings against the Yankees earlier this year, and most recently held the Rangers to one run over six innings, while striking out eight. The New Jerseyan has done a solid job keeping the Yankees in check over the years, holding the Bombers to a .617 OPS over 168 at-bats.
CC Sabathia will oppose Porcello as the big lefty looks to stay hot. Sabathia has turned in four starts since returning from a brief DL stint to nurse a sore hip, and has allowed just one earned run in that span. After throwing six shutout innings against the Indians on Friday, Sabathia has dropped his ERA to 1.39. His recent success should transfer over nicely against Boston’s bats, who have just a .625 OPS against the crafty veteran. The series finale could turn into a pitchers’ duel, and who knows, it could be to decide who leaves the series with the division lead.
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