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Yankees vs. Red Sox: Series Preview

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New York looks to take the division lead from Boston.

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MLB: New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Faced with a stretch of 18 games in as many days, the Yankees turned in some of the best baseball they’ve played in years. They went 16 - 2 over that span, transforming from a .500 club into one 14 games over. The Bombers also took a massive bite into the AL East deficit, cutting Boston’s 6.5 game lead to just one.

The real test, however, begins now. The Red Sox visit the Bronx for three games in a series that feels unusually important for May. If the Yankees want to take over the top of the division, they will need to get through these matchups. If you’re in New York City and want to attend one of these games, you can get your tickets from StubHub by clicking here.

Game One: Luis Severino vs. Drew Pomeranz

Severino is showing that last year’s performance wasn’t a fluke. He has continued his ace-caliber pitching into 2018. The right-hander owns a 2.11 ERA over 47 innings pitched. His peripherals look sterling, too. He owns a 2.32 FIP while running up impressive strikeout (9.96 K/9) and groundball (51.8%) numbers. Severino’s only clunker came in Boston, where the Red Sox tagged him for five runs in as many innings. He’s been on a roll since, so I’m confident in the Yankees ace.

As for Pomeranz, the left-hander has struggled to start the year. Through 14.2 innings, the 29-year-old has a 6.14 ERA with a 5.13 FIP. He battled a mild flexor strain during spring training, which likely explains his ineffectiveness. Regardless of what’s behind it, this matchup looks like it favors the Bombers.

Game Two: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Rick Porcello

After a slow start, Tanaka has rounded into form nicely. The veteran right-hander owns a 4.39 ERA (3.81 FIP), but that doesn’t tell the full story. He has pitched to a 2.41 ERA (2.78 FIP) over his last three starts. He will still serve up a few home runs — that’s part of the experience now — but Tanaka’s been masterful of late.

Remember the last time Price faced the Yankees? He lasted exactly one inning, allowing four runs in the process. The rest of the year hasn’t gone well either. He has a 5.11 ERA with lousy peripherals as well. That 4.21 FIP and decline in strikeout rate doesn’t engender much confidence. Plus, he’s dealing with circulation issues. Yikes.

On Tuesday afternoon, Alex Cora announced the Red Sox scratched David Price due to a circulation issue. Porcello will start in his place. The right-hander represents the biggest challenge for the Yankees. He’s back in Cy Young form, pitching to a 2.14 ERA with a nearly identical 2.18 FIP. Porcello’s strikeout rate is above his career norms, while his walk and home run rates are way down. That’s a recipe for success. This game, on paper, figures to be a low-scoring affair. Now watch it produce 20 runs or something.

Game Three: CC Sabathia vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

Sabathia has been nothing short of extraordinary this season. The veteran southpaw is pitching at ace levels in 2018, as evidenced by his 1.39 ERA. His secondary numbers suggest regression is coming, but Sabathia somehow keeps defying the odds. This just may be who he is now, and it’s awesome.

Rodriguez, on the other hand, has struggled notably in 2018. He’s pitched to a 5.29 ERA and a 4.56 over 32.1 innings. His strikeout rate is up, but so too are his walk and home run numbers. The Yankees may not get a chance to hit against Price, so I guess they can settle for Rodriguez.