Andy Pettitte is a huge key to the Yankees' second-half success.
The Yankees are northbound for their first series at Fenway Park this season against first-place Boston with a lot on the line. Three games in mid-July won't hardly decide a season, but a sweep at the hand of the Red Sox could be deadly for the Bombers' aspirations to claim the AL East division crown.
The Yankees will send the venerable, yet recently shaky, Andy Pettitte to the mound Friday night to square off against Boston southpaw, Felix Doubront. Saturday's late afternoon pairing features Yankee ace Hiroki Kuroda and John Lackey. The Sunday night game of the week will pit CC Sabathia versus Jon Lester.
The Bombers will be without shortstop Derek Jeter, who was placed on the disabled list earlier today, retroactive to July 12th. This is hardly surprising, but it hurts all the more since the Yankees will face two lefties this weekend and could use Jeter's bat in the lineup.
New York has the 27th best OPS in the majors against lefties, and other teams have caught on, often shifting their pitching rotation to have southpaws face the Yankee lineup. It won't be easy for New York, but the Yankees certainly have pitchers with the experience and know how to navigate this dangerous Red Sox lineup.
It's Yankees and Red Sox, a rivalry renewed, from steamy hot Beantown this evening. The Yankees could pull off a stunner and take all three games this weekend if the bats can get going. While unlikely, it's never out of the realm of possibility.
Here are three keys to the Yankees sweeping the Red Sox to get the second half of the big league season started off proper.
The Yankees are relying on Vernon Wells to have a big series at Fenway Park.
Since 2007, Fenway Park has landed in the top-10 parks in the major leagues for runs allowed. In the last two full MLB seasons, Fenway Park finished third. So far in 2013, the ole ball yard is 12th, but the fact remains that ball players love to hit at Fenway Park thanks to the very inviting close wall in left field.
Traditionally, Yankee hitters have found lots of success bopping balls off the Green Monster and into the spacious power alley in right-center. Robinson Cano has enjoyed tremendous career success in Boston, and Vernon Wells has found moderate success at Fenway.
The Yankees could use all kinds of hitting this weekend, but they'll particularly need hot bats against left-handed pitching, as the Sox will trot out two southpaws in Doubront and Lester. In addition, the Sox have Craig Breslow and the newly acquired Matt Thornton in the bullpen.
First things first, the Yankees need to hit. Period.
Especially against lefties if they have any hopes of taking all three in The Hub.
CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte need to start showing the Yankees their best pitching.
CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte have not had very good seasons so far in 2013. That's the bottom line. At times, each has pitched brilliantly and tossed some nice games for the Yankees. However, each pitcher has also been rocked in several starts and dented the Bombers' hopes of winning some games.
Sabathia is always going to give you a gritty, hard-fought start with length that takes the burden off the bullpen. More often than not, the big veteran is going deep into games. But his two lowest hit totals in his last two months worth of starts are five and five, respectively.
In fact, Sabathia has the highest hits per nine innings (H/9) ratio of his entire career. His batting average on balls put in play (BAPIP) is .287, and unfortunately, he's letting lots of baseballs travel into the field of play.
Pettitte has gone past the seventh inning only three times in his last 16 starts and has put the Yankees in a hole early on in his last five starts. The Yankee fanbase is not pleased with these results, but there's a belief that these savvy veterans can pull it together and start getting stingy in the runs and hits department.
It has to start somewhere if the Yankees hope to make the playoffs this year. What better place than Fenway Park? What better time than now?
Luis Cruz, we're looking at you.
The Yankees have one of the worst lower-halves of a batting order in all of baseball. The likes of Luis Cruz, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Stewart and Austin Romine just aren't getting the job done. Not that anyone expected them to produce big results.
If the Yankees are looking to sweep Boston this weekend, they will absolutely need to get production from several of the names above throughout all three games. Barring masterful consecutive pitching performances from Pettitte, Kuroda and Sabathia, the Bombers are going to need to score runs.
Fenway Park seems to play to lots of runs during the hot summer months, and the Yankees have to expect going in that they'll need to score at least four-to-five runs per night to win. Enter the hopes of Yankee fans everywhere that Luis Cruz is able to provide a lift with his right-handed bat.
In a very small sample size, Eduardo Nunez has flat-out raked at Fenway Park to the tune of a .994 OPS in 28 career plate appearances. Timely hitting from Chris Stewart is necessary as well if the Yankees aim to take all three in Boston.
The Yankees will obviously need the usual top-notch production from Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner, as well as some good games from Zoilo Almonte, Ichiro Suzuki and Travis Hafner. But the bottom of the order must pick up some of the slack and contribute for a Yankees series sweep.