The Yankees close out the regular season against the hated Red Sox this weekend, looking to secure home-field advantage for the Wild Card Game on Wednesday night. The three-game set in Fenway was supposed to carry a lot more excitement when fans looked at the schedule prior to the start of the regular season, but the Sox find themselves in rest mode as they prepare for more important games in October. Meanwhile, the Yanks still have work to do, needing just one win to ensure the Wild Card Game is played in the Bronx for a second straight year.
Here are the pitching matchups for the weekend slate:
Game one: J.A. Happ vs. Brian Johnson
Happ will be offering his final start to the Wild Card Game, and it will come against a Red Sox team that he has enjoyed plenty of success against. Boston’s big bats like J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts have combined for just 10 hits over 47 at-bats, but AL East journeyman Steve Pearce has torched the southpaw for five home runs in 29 at-bats. The Yankees saw what Pearce could do in the last fiasco at Fenway, and they wouldn’t like to see an encore performance.
Johnson has mainly been used out of the bullpen this season, but will get his second start against the Yankees this season in the series opener. He also got the ball in the last series opener in Fenway, when the Yankees jumped on him for five runs over five innings, but the pitching fell apart for the Bombers in an ugly loss. Johnson hasn’t started September 2nd, but Alex Cora is looking to rest some of his arms for the playoffs. The Yankees don’t have much experience against Johnson, but Giancarlo Stanton is 3-for-5 with a double against him in a small sample size. Then again, Stanton has been great against just about anyone in a Red Sox uniform this season.
Game two: Lance Lynn vs. Nathan Eovaldi
Lynn has been almost exactly what you would expect out of a fifth starter, posting a 4.21 ERA since coming to the Bronx. He’s allowed four earned runs over his last 16 innings, and has past success against the Red Sox, though he has yet to face them in a Yankee uniform. Boston’s current roster has a .658 OPS against Lynn, while Martinez is just 3-for-17 against the righty. However, Jackie Bradley Jr., normally one of Boston’s most inferior hitters, is 3-for-5 with a pair of homers against Lynn.
Former Yankee Eovaldi will be looking to make his case to start a postseason game for the Red Sox, and he’s been solid of late. The always up-and-down righty shut the Yankees out through six innings his last time against the Bombers, and allowed one run over five frames while striking out 10 in his most recent start against the Orioles. He’s held the Yanks in check for the most part this season, but he has had his trouble against Didi Gregorius, who is 5-for-14 with a home run in his career against his former teammate. Whether Gregorius plays remains to be seen.
Game three: Luis Severino vs. Rick Porcello
After a pair of starts where we saw some semblance of the Luis Severino from the first half, the struggling ace tripped up in the third inning in his last start against the Rays. It was a fine outing other than that third inning, but it appeared to be enough to remove him from the conversation to start the Wild Card Game, though he still could be available in a bullpen role. Severino has been solid against Boston, but has had his struggles with Andrew Benintendi (1.282 OPS in 27 at-bats) and Martinez (7-for-12).
Porcello was masterful in his last start against the Yankees, throwing a complete game while allowing just one run. He hasn’t been so sharp of late, however, allowing 10 earned runs over his last 15.2 innings. The Bombers as a team have managed an underwhelming .670 OPS against Porcello over his career, and the only Yankee who has really had his number is Jacoby Ellsbury, who we know is still recovering from a list of injuries that stretch longer than the Major Deegan, so someone else will have to step up. Brett Gardner, who has an .841 OPS against Porcello, comes to mind, as he could use a good day at the plate to continue to build some momentum heading into the postseason.