The Yankees are kicking off Rivalry Week with a crucial series against the Red Sox. After surging to first place in the AL East after All-Star Break, the Yankees have fallen back into second place. Boston used an eight-game winning streak to build a 4.5-game division lead.
After fielding an outstanding offense last season, the Red Sox expected another campaign driven by their batters in 2017. The inverse has been true; Boston’s offense has lagged to a 93 wRC+, while their pitching has excelled. Their staff ranks 2nd in baseball by RA9-WAR and third by fWAR.
The Red Sox may be coming around on offense, too. Boston has a 115 wRC+ over the past two weeks, thanks in large part to the superlative contributions of former Yankee Eduardo Nunez. Nunez has managed an unfathomable .420/.442/.780 with the Red Sox. The promotion of top prospect Rafael Devers (.316/396/.553) has also been a boon to their offense.
Boston’s stars — Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts — may not be having vintage seasons, but they still make up the core of a good team. The Yankees will have to outpace them if they hope to win the division. Now, let’s head to the matchups.
Game 1: Jaime Garcia vs. Eduardo Rodriguez
Rodriguez is the first of three Boston southpaws the Yankees are set to face this series. That’s a potential problem given New York’s 88 wRC+ against left-handers this year. The 24-year-old Rodriguez has struggled with injuries in his young career, but he’s put together a nice 2017, with a 112 ERA+ in 81 innings, with 89 strikeouts compared to 32 walks.
The Yankees will look for Garcia to improve on his debut with the club. He was tagged for six runs in 4.2 innings in his first time out with the team last week. Garcia has relied heavily on suppressing home runs this year to keep his run totals down. His strikeout and walk rates are at career worst levels, but he’s allowed just 12 homers in this season’s elevated home run environment. It could be difficult for Garcia to continue that trend in the Yankee Stadium launching pad.
Game 2: Luis Severino vs. Drew Pomeranz
This will be Pomeranz’s third start against the Yankees this year. He yielded six runs across 11 innings in those first two outings, recording 14 strikeouts. Pomeranz has been a big part of Boston’s success on the pitching side, maintaining a 136 ERA+ across 120 innings this year. He returned to the form that made him an All-Star with the Padres last year.
Dave Dombrowski came under criticism after he flipped blue-chip pitching prospect Andreson Espinoza for the injury-prone Pomeranz at last year’s deadline. Now with Espinoza undergoing Tommy John surgery and Pomeranz putting up strong numbers, Dombrowski may have added to his history of winning trades.
The Yankees will turn to Severino, who, if it wasn’t for Boston’s Chris Sale, would have a legitimate AL Cy Young case at the moment. His 4.7 WAR ranks only behind Sale and the indomitable Corey Kluber in the AL. He has struck out 162 batters in 139 innings with a 160 ERA+. Severino is only 23 years old, but he already looks like an ace.
Game 3: Jordan Montgomery vs. Chris Sale
Sale has terrorized the league this year. He has struck out 229 batters and walked just 29, with a 177 ERA+. He’s on pace to blow past the 300-strikeout milestone. In fact, thanks to his dominance this year, Sale now owns the best career strikeout-to-walk ratio in MLB history.
Taking on Sale will be a tall order for Montgomery after the rookie’s brief demotion. With CC Sabathia’s knee reportedly in as much pain as ever, Montgomery will be tasked with taking at least a turn in the rotation. Despite his trip to the minors, Montgomery has been the Yankees’ second-best starter this year, and would be a top contender for AL Rookie of the Year if it weren’t for Aaron Judge.
Montgomery’s second-half struggles lent themselves to an easy narrative about the rookie wearing down, but his performance of late has been pretty much as good as usual. In his final start before being demoted, Montgomery limited the Indians to one run and struck out seven while walking none. With any luck, he’ll be able to pick up where he left off and continue to give the Yankees solid production.