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New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox: Series Preview

Without three or four wins, the Yankees’ rough road ahead might become impossible.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After a series win against the Red Sox and a sweep of the Phillies, the Yankees have been able to cut their All-Star break deficit of eight games in the AL East to ... seven. Starting tonight, the Yankees will play four straight against their rivals at Fenway with a chance to make a more legitimate dent in that division deficit.

Thursday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Tanner Houck, 7:10 PM ET

After all the Yankee pitchers whose names rhyme with “Ferret Pole,” Monty has probably been the team’s most reliable starter, even with a middling 4.18 ERA and 4.25 xERA. In his 18 starts this season, he’s cleared five innings all but four times, including a pair of duds all the way back in May. While he's far from one of the game’s most dominant arms, he’s mostly done well enough to avoid early implosions, giving the Yankee offense a reasonable chance to win ballgames in his starts. In his most recent start, Monty cleared six-strong after a trio of second-inning scores, requiring four straight scoreless innings of work. Despite the Quality Start, the Yankees failed to scratch once on just four total bases, resulting in a lost second-half opener against the Sox.

Tanner Houck enters the game with a 3.38 ERA, but only 30.1 career innings pitched and five career starts (two this season). As Boston’s 2017 first-rounder and sixth-ranked prospect right now, Houck has lived up to the pedigree so far. His wipeout slider has been especially effective for him, earning better than a 42-percent whiff rate in each of his first two partial big-league seasons. However, his ability to go deep in games — and therefore his ultimate potential — will remain limited as long as his arsenal is limited to basically two-and-a-half pitches with a sinker, four-seam, and slider. Still, he’s been pretty nasty in his limited innings to date.

Friday: Gerrit Cole vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, 7:10 PM ET

The Yankees got the better of the Sox in Cole’s most recent start, the second of three in their past series. In his only start since his epic final outing before the All-Star break, Cole allowed a single run in a six-inning, rain-shortened contest with 11 strikeouts to boot. He seems to have rediscovered his mojo after a rough June and start to July.

Eduardo Rodriguez was the lone winning Boston pitcher in the clubs’ prior series, demoralizing the Yankee offense in an outing that ended one out shy of a Quality Start. In 5.2 innings, Rodriguez struck out eight, allowing just a pair of hits and walks in his scoreless start. Despite his 5.19 ERA, he’s had New York’s number in three starts against them, allowing just 5 earned runs across 17 innings for a 2.65 ERA. Also, the differential between his ERA and xERA of 1.53 is the largest in baseball among pitchers who have faced at least 250 batters. However, considering the fact that the resurgent, righty-laden Yankee offense has recorded a wRC+ of 96 against righties and a wRC+ of 111 against lefties (the fifth-best in baseball), chances are good that they turn it around.

Saturday: Jameson Taillon vs. Nathan Eovaldi, 4:05 PM ET

As has been the story with Taillon all season, he’s been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball according to his opponents’ batted-ball data, recording a 4.60 ERA despite a 3.99 xERA. Although his fortune hasn’t been quite as bad as Ed-Rod’s, his 0.61 run differential between the two stats has been the ninth-most unfortunate in baseball among pitchers with 250-plus batters faced. Among that group, his xwOBA of .307 is third-best despite a .327 wOBA, good for the fifth-largest differential in baseball.

Since the start of July, Taillon’s gone 18.1 innings with almost a strikeout per frame and only three earned runs. He’ll have an excellent opportunity on Saturday to prove his mettle by shutting down the Red Sox in his second straight start.

The former Yankee Eovaldi has undoubtedly been the Red Sox’s best pitcher since they lost Chris Sale to injury. Until the big lefty’s imminent return, Eovaldi will have to continue to shoulder the load of the staff’s ace. The 2021 All-Star’s stuff is good, not great, but he throws as hard as almost any starting pitcher and can do so all day long with an average fastball velocity in baseball's 87th percentile. He’s cleared 100 pitches six times already, and his 94th percentile walk rate has helped him go deep-ish into most starts despite middling putaway percentages and an above-average strikeout rate driving up his pitch counts.

Sunday: Domingo Germán vs. Martín Peréz, 1:10 PM ET

After a pit stop at the dentist and the Yankees’ bullpen, Domingo Germán will be back on the bump to start a game for the second outing in a row. Following six innings of five-run ball across three relief appearances in the first half of July, Germán allowed two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings against the Phillies on Tuesday. The stellar middle-relief pitching and offensive ignition for six Yankee runs spared Germán from the loss, but the Yankees would surely love a bit more to win on Sunday.

Slated to oppose him, however, is Martín Peréz, veritably one of the weakest starting pitchers in baseball. Just this past Sunday, the Yankees peppered him around the Bronx for three runs in four innings, before exploding in the latter innings to turn the contest into a laugher (even with a lineup that raised eyebrows). A decent Germán start should be enough for the Yankees to repeat the result from their most recent rubber match.