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New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox: Series Preview

The Yankees open their 2022 season at home against their bitter rivals

Toronto Blue Jays v. New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The 2022 season is finally here! Despite a 99-day owner lockout of the players, at times during which the season looked to be in real jeopardy, baseball is back with the full 162-game schedule intact. The offseason gave us many reasons to feel pessimistic as Yankees fans and baseball fans in general, but that is all in the rearview mirror — what matters now is the game ahead.

Thanks to a forecast of nasty weather, we had to wait an extra 24 hours for that game to arrive, but that just means one more day for excitement to build for what promises to be a thrilling contest. One couldn’t write a better script than Yankees/Red Sox on Opening Day. The Yankees begin their quest for No. 28 with their ace on the mound.

Friday: Gerrit Cole vs. Nathan Eovaldi, 1:05 PM ET

I’m sure Gerrit Cole is still unsatisfied with the way last year ended, and there is no better way to wash that bitter taste from his mouth than a strong showing against the team that ended their season. There’s no sugarcoating it, Cole was awful in the 2021 Wild Card Game at Fenway — two innings giving up three runs on a pair of homers — though he was likely hampered by a hamstring injury he picked up in the final month of the season. Still, if you’re going to demand the ball, you have to deliver.

All that being said, Cole remains the Yankees’ undisputed ace as well as one of the top pitchers in the game. He finished last season 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA, 243 strikeouts, and 5.3 fWAR in 181.1 IP en route to a second place Cy Young finish, and projects as the best starter in baseball with an MLB-leading 5.7 fWAR.

Opposite Cole is the man equally responsible for the New York’s postseason exit. Former Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi torched the Bombers in that Wild Card Game, giving up a lone run while striking out eight in 5.1 innings. That performance came as no surprise considering the way he dominated the Yankees during the regular season — six games with a 3.71 ERA and 34:4 strikeout to walk ratio. Eovaldi gets the nod as the Opening Day starter after Chris Sale was placed on the 60-day IL with a broken rib, and will look to improve upon a 2021 campaign that saw him go 11-9 with a 3.75 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and an AL-leading 5.6 fWAR in 182.1 IP.

Saturday: TBD vs. Nick Pivetta, 4:05 PM ET

The Yankees have yet to announce starters for Saturday or Sunday, but it’s a safe bet Jordan Montgomery will pitch one game and Luis Severino the other. For the sake of this preview, we’re going to assume Montgomery goes on Saturday. The 29 year old lefty is coming off his best season, having gone 6-7 in a career-high 30 starts, with a 3.83 ERA, 162 strikeouts, and 3.3 fWAR in 157.1 IP. He sneakily possessed one of the best changeups and curveballs in the game last season — leading to a top-30 finish among all starters with at least 150 IP — the next step in solidifying his status as a true No. 2 starter is refining his fastball command.

The Red Sox on the other hand have their rotation settled for the opening series. Nick Pivetta gets the middle game as he looks to build off his best big league season since 2018. He was acquired via trade from the Phillies around the 2020 trade deadline and started 30 games for the Red Sox in 2021, going 9-8 with a 4.53 ERA, 175 strikeouts, and 2.1 fWAR in 155 IP. The 6-foot-5 righty throws a mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s slider, and a big looping high-70s curveball that featured the seventh-most vertical movement in MLB in 2021.

Sunday: TBD vs. Tanner Houck, 7:08 PM ET

Luis Severino is healthy to start a season for the first time since 2018. He has pitched only 19.1 innings in the regular and postseason since that campaign, and will hope to reclaim some of the former ace status he flashed in 2017 and 2018. It’s easy to forget just how well he pitched — he was one of four pitchers alongside Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Carlos Carrasco to be worth at least five wins in each of those two seasons. After consecutive years lost to injury, his focus has now shifted to being a healthy and effective starter, and he looks to be on track after an encouraging final spring outing.

Tanner Houck gets the nod to close out the three-game set against the Yankees. Boston’s first round draft pick in the 2017 MLB Draft is seen as the mirror image to Chris Sale because of the similarities in their deliveries and pitch movement. And boy do Houck’s pitches move all over the place. His mid-90s sinker featured the second-most drop of any sinker in baseball last year while his frisbee slider featured the 20th-most horizontal sweep of any slider in 2021. He was used as both a starter and a reliever last year, pitching in 18 games (13 starts) with a 3.52 ERA, 30.5 percent strikeout rate, and 2.2 fWAR in 69 IP.