Winners of their last eight games, the Yankees’ lineup is finally coming around—they put up 43 runs in three days. Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and Aaron Judge have all come off the injured list, and all but Judge have already flashed moments of brilliance despite their recent returns. September DJ LeMahieu has arrived in full force, recording eight hits during the series agains the Blue Jays, boosting his batting average to .373 and tying him with Tim Anderson for the AL lead.
Luke Voit also continues to prove he’s one of the best power hitters in the American League; he’s slugged 20 home runs so far, four more than anyone in the majors. Their pitching has seemed to turn a corner as well. Gerrit Cole’s recorded his two best starts of the year in back to back performances, Tanaka’s remained a steady number two, and Deivi García has proven to be a solid third starter just when the Yankees were in dire need of some help. However, after burning these three veritable starters in their most recent sweep, the Yankees will need their back-end to take care of business against the worst Red Sox team in years. So far, they have, rolling to a 7-0 record against Boston in 2020, and winning the last ten games against their rivals dating back to last September.
Friday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Martín Pérez
Montgomery is coming off his best start of the season, not allowing an earned run through five and two-thirds innings in a win over the O’s. Yankee fans have to hope his recent success is a sign he’s turned the corner, rather than the latest peak in a season that had at least as many valleys.
As a team, the Red Sox have the worst pitching WAR in all of baseball. At -1.2 Wins Above Replacement, they are the only team with a negative cumulative win-value across all of their pitchers. The innings-leader of the 15 starters they’ve used so far has been Martín Pérez, at 52 over ten starts.
The nine-year MLB veteran’s greatest strength has been his ability to simply suit up and pitch with relative consistency, eclipsing 165 innings in three of the past four seasons. With below average stuff across the board, he’s consistently finished in the bottom quarter of K% among qualified starters. He throws five pitches for strikes, and throws none of them more often than his cutter at 34.5% of the time. He’s polished enough to pass as a decent major league starter by limiting hard contact, but not talented enough to ever really dominate. The Yankees’ righty-loaded lineup should make easy work of Pérez; I’d be surprised if he makes it past four innings, especially with Judge and Stanton back in the order.
Saturday J.A. Happ vs. TBD
Happ, like Monty, seems to have taken a reverse-step after each positive one this season. After opening the season with two duds, he threw 13 innings of one-run ball. Then, he got shelled again, before another two solid starts. His FIP (5.12), significantly diminished stuff, and batted ball data tell a story of a pitcher worse than the 3.96 ERA he’s posted this season. That said, he’ll have a chance to post a third solid start in a row for the first time this season against Boston’s middling offense.
After getting shelled in just his second major league start since 2014, it’s unlikely the Red Sox hand the ball over to Mike Kickham, the most recently used Sox spot-starter. Alternatively, the club could use Chris Mazza as an opener, before turning the game over to the pen, something they’ve done four times already this season. Regardless of who they go with, their bullpen’s ERA of 5.91 trails only three teams, so unless they’re able alchemize coal into gold before Saturday, they’re in for a rough go of things against a peaking Yankee offense.
Sunday TBD vs. Tanner Houck
García currently projects to start Sunday, though it remains to be seen if the Yankees will rejigger their rotation at any point during the season’s final days in order to line up the young righty as their third starter. García has been excellent, and is coming off another strong start in which he held a talented Toronto lineup to three runs across seven innings.
24 year-old righty, Tanner Houck, will get the second start of his career on Sunday. Selected in the first round of the 2017 draft, the Red Sox’s sixth-ranked prospect seems ready to convert potential into reality. In his first start, he threw five innings of run-free baseball along with seven strikeouts. Relying primarily on a low-nineties fastball and a big-breaking slider, Houck was able to carve Miami’s lineup with relative ease, especially considering it was his debut.
Though the limited pitch movement data says Houck’s fastball is flatter than Kyrie Irving thinks the Earth is, his slider has more than twice as much later movement as the average same-speed slider. Metrically, Houck’s slider compares closely to Adam Ottavino’s, breaking sharply across the zone with little vertical break. Regardless of the result, it will be interesting to see if Houck can replicate the resounding success of his first outing.