The division-leading Yankees (13-6) will look to James Paxton to build on a promising start last weekend as they face off against the last-place Red Sox (6-14) in the second game of a four-game series Saturday.
The Bombers trounced Boston 10-3 in Friday night’s series opener, backed by a sterling outing from ace Gerrit Cole and a parade of hits against a beleaguered Red Sox pitching staff. The win was the Yankees fourth in as many games against their ancient rivals so far this year.
But Saturday’s focus will be on Paxton, the Canadian southpaw who underwent lower back surgery in early February and struggled mightily in his first two starts, lasting just four innings total and conceding six earned runs. Disconcertingly (though perhaps not surprisingly, given the surgery) his fastball velocity was greatly diminished, averaging little better than 91 mph. One of those starts was against the Red Sox, in which he lasted three innings and gave up five runs (three earned), though he did manage to strike out four and walk no one.
On Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, however, Paxton showed noticeably more life on his fastball and regularly sat at 92-93 mph, occasionally touching 94. The results were encouraging, as the 31-year-old lefty yielded just one hit over the first six innings, striking out 11 and walking one. Two home runs in the seventh spoiled Paxton’s afternoon, as the Yankees went on to drop the game in walk-off fashion.
Some of his early season numbers may not look pretty entering Saturday’s game – he’s 0-1, with a 7.84 ERA (4.67 FIP) – but there’s reason to be hopeful he’ll return to form.
And in Boston, he faces an opponent he’s fared well against in the past, his first start against them this season notwithstanding. In nine career starts against the Red Sox (53 innings), Paxton is 5-1, with a 3.23 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 60 strikeouts and 10 walks.
His opposite number will be former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi, who’s off to a solid start this season for Boston. In four starts totaling 22 innings, the 30-year-old righty sports a 4.09 ERA (3.40 FIP) and 1.27 WHIP. Boasting impressive strikeout and walk rates (26.4% and 3.3%, respectively) Eovaldi should prove a test for an injury-depleted Yankees lineup.
Eovaldi has stymied the Bombers over his career. In eight appearances (five starts), totaling 32.1 innings, the righty is 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28 strikeouts and just five walks.
But several Yankees are swinging hot bats. DJ LeMahieu has continued his torrid start to 2020, hitting .429 with a 1.031 OPS (you know you’re on fire when a 2-for-5 performance, which LeMahieu had Friday, actually lowers your batting average). Gleyber Torres, after a quiet start to the year, tallied four hits, including a two-run double, in the series opener and will hope to continue that momentum. And Gary Sanchez hit a monster bomb that is hopefully a harbinger of things to come for the struggling catcher.
In injury news, the Yankees remain without Aaron Judge (calf), Giancarlo Stanton (hamstring), and Kyle Higashioka (oblique). Tommy Kahnle and Luis Severino are out for the season following Tommy John surgery.
Closer Aroldis Chapman is still rehabbing after missing time due to COVID-19, but after throwing to live batters for the second time on Friday, there’s a chance he could return this weekend.
The Yankees lineup looks like this:
And here’s the Red Sox order:
How to watch:
Game time: 7:07 p.m. ET
Location: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY
TV broadcast: FOX
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM
Online Stream: MLB.tv