10.5 games back and reeling in late July, the Boston Red Sox come to the Bronx this weekend hoping to salvage their season and make up some ground on the American League East division-leading New York Yankees.
New York is 12-9 so far in July and is coming off a West Coast jaunt that left them battered and bruised. The Yankees made a late-game comeback to beat Seattle on Wednesday and win that series, though they finished the road trip at a dismal 2-5.
To make matters worse, Alex Rodriguez was hit by an errant Felix Hernandez changeup on Tuesday night that broke his hand, and he is now expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. Nick Swisher is still sidelined heading into the weekend with a hip injury but is hopeful to return on Saturday.
The Yankees have blasted their way to the highest home run total in the majors, and they're currently first in team OPS. Yet they have had odd struggles batting with runners in scoring position. They're hoping that the arrival of Ichiro will get them back on track.
Boston is 1-5 against the Yankees this season, with all six games played at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will play six of their next 23 games at Yankee Stadium, and they’ll have the chance to show they’re better than what they’ve shown so far in 2012.
The Red Sox have been decimated by injuries—from Jacoby Ellsbury to Dustin Pedroia to Carl Crawford—and it’s shown in their record. David Ortiz is having an exceptional season, once again hitting over .300 and belting 23 home runs.
Cody Ross and Will Middlebrooks have been bright spots in the lineup, but highly-paid Adrian Gonzalez has been something of a disappointment at first base. Nine home runs for a big, slugging veteran who has averaged 33 home runs per season the last five years has left Boston with a real power void in the middle of their order.
Who will win this weekend series?
When baseball’s biggest rivalry comes up though, you can throw out the proverbial records. These should be long, grinding games that will keep fans up until way past 10. The Yankees are hoping to put Boston away before the calendar turns to August.
Here is an offensive tale of the tape and a breakdown of the pitching matchups:
By the Numbers (Major League rank through games played on July 26th):
Team OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage):
Red Sox: 5th
Team Home Runs:
Red Sox: 6th
Red Sox: 3rd
Red Sox: 6th
Batting Average with Runners in Scoring Position (RISP):
Red Sox: 4th
Yankees: Robinson Cano (.319 BA, .948 OPS, 23 HR, 58 RBI); Curtis Granderson (.249 BA, .855 OPS, 27 HR, 54 RBI); Mark Teixeira (.262 BA, .845 OPS, 19 HR, 67 RBI)
Red Sox: David Ortiz (.316 BA, 1.024 OPS, 7 HR, 19 RBI); Cody Ross (.261 BA, .870 OPS, 16 HR, 50 RBI); Will Middlebrooks (.297 BA, .847 OPS, 12 HR, 43 RBI)
Friday July 27th:
Phil Hughes (9-8 4.09 ERA) vs. Aaron Cook (2-3 3.50 ERA)
The Yankees avoid Clay Bucholz and Josh Beckett, though both pitchers are having poor seasons. Aaron Cook has started six games for the Red Sox this season and has pitched well overall. Cook is the antithesis of a strikeout pitcher and relies heavily on a two-seam fastball. It’s a pitch he uses almost exclusively.
Phil Hughes has turned around his fortunes in 2012, thanks to greater confidence in his fastball and greater durability. After a rocky month of April, Hughes has calmed down and has unfurled four quality starts in his last five games. The Yankees are hoping that the 26-year-old southern California native has hit his stride.
Saturday July 28th:
CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30 ERA) vs. Jon Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA)
Jon Lester is having a horrendous 2012, no two ways about it. He was absolutely rocked in his last outing by the Toronto Blue Jays for 11 earned runs in just four innings pitched. Few and far between have been the dominant outings that Lester was known for in recent seasons.
CC Sabathia is back from the disabled list and has tossed two quality starts since the All-Star break. Sabathia has always performed well in the summer months and lives for these kinds of games against the Red Sox. Expect the Bombers’ ace to be on his game, even though the Yankees’ lead over their bitter Beantown rivals is larger than it normally is at this time of the year.
Sunday July 29th:
Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA) vs. Felix Doubront (10-5, 4.54)
Hiroki Kuroda has been the Yankees' best starting pitcher this season. Disagree? He leads Yankees starters in quality starts, innings pitched, wins above replacement (WAR) and he is tied for the team lead in wins. He’s allowed one earned run in his last 14 innings pitched and has struck out 14.
Felix Doubront has racked up a lot of strikeouts and sports a nice 10-5 record, though he’s mixed in some clunkers. He’s given up 109 hits in 107 innings pitched and, like Phil Hughes, is prone to giving up the long ball. He’ll duel with Kuroda on ESPN’s Sunday night baseball.