After a surprisingly tough series against the lowly Cincinnati Reds, the Yankees stick around to welcome their bitter rivals back to the Bronx for the first time since Opening Day. Just last weekend, the Yankees entered Fenway Park and after taking the first two games, they dropped the last two (one of which came in heartbreaking fashion) to split the series with the Red Sox. Both teams are coming off tough weeks, as New York has lost four of its last five and Boston just got mopped by Tampa Bay in four straight at the Trop.
Lord knows that the Yankees — especially the pitchers — could use a break, so thankfully, this is the last series before the All-Star break. Still, it’ll be important for the Yankees to come out strong if they want to put even more distance between them and their rivals going into the second half of the season.
DraftKings series odds: Yankees win (-200); Red Sox win (+155)
Friday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Nathan Eovaldi (7:05pm EST)
Somehow, Montgomery’s season is quite undervalued around these parts. The big lefty has a sparkling 3.19 ERA and 3.80 FIP in 96 innings pitched this season. Aside from one rough outing against the Oakland Athletics, Montgomery has been superb, finding himself second on the team in innings pitched and third in ERA (among starters). He's been a big part of the Yankees success this season, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can be as good against this dangerous Red Sox lineup as he was on the July 9th, when he gave up two runs and scattered five hits and one walk while striking out four across 5.2 innings pitched.
Eovaldi has been on the IL since June 8th, but he’ll be returning on Friday evening. Us Yankees fans know the right-hander quite well at this point, so I won’t waste time on a scouting report, but let’s get caught up to speed on his season so far. After missing over a month with hip and lower back issues, Eovaldi is returning to what was shaping up to be another successful year for him. In 68.1 innings, he has pitched to a 3.16 ERA with a 25.8 percent strikeout rate.
Of course, it should be noted that Eovaldi has actually posted kind of a weird season — his xERA (4.31) is over one full point higher than his actual ERA, while his FIP (4.53) is over a full point higher than his xFIP (3.10). Bizarre stuff. In his first start of the year, Eovaldi gave up three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven Yankees in five innings, so New York will look to build on that game and hopefully strike for more offence tonight.
Saturday: Jameson Taillon vs. Nick Pivetta (7:15pm EST)
After getting off to an amazing start to 2022, Jameson Taillon has crashed back down to earth as of late. Over his last four starts, Taillon has given up 20 runs and 30 hits in 21 innings pitched. Sometimes, a stretch like that can be chalked up to one bad blowup, but unfortunately, he’s coughed up at least five runs three times in his last four starts — one of which came last weekend against Boston.
Even with those poor performances, however, the Yankees have gone 2-2 in that stretch, so the overall results haven’t been as poor as they could have been. For the season, Taillon has pitched to a 4.01 ERA and a 3.78 FIP (both marks his lowest since 2018) with a shockingly low 3.1-percent walk rate in 94.1 innings. If the Yankees want to fare better this time around against Boston, they’ll really need Taillon to rediscover his early-season form.
Nick Pivetta, on the other hand, leads the Red Sox in innings pitched (103.2) by a lot (seriously, the second-most innings thrown is Rich Hill at 70.2), but has also had quite an inconsistent season. That’s likely a testament to how injured the Sox rotation has been, but nonetheless, Pivetta enters play on Saturday with a 4.08 ERA and 3.84 FIP.
Throughout his career, the Yankees have had Pivetta’s number. In five games against New York, he’s thrown just 18 innings and pitched to an 8.50 ERA. This season, he’s met the Yankees twice. Back in April, he gave up four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four across 5.2 innings pitched. Most recently on July 10th, he lasted just 3.1 innings, giving up six runs on eight hits and two walks while fanning five. The Yankees will look to continue their domination of Pivetta when he takes the mound on Saturday.
Sunday: Gerrit Cole vs. Chris Sale (1:35pm EST)
Ah, yes, the matchup we’ve been waiting for. Despite a couple bumps in the road, Gerrit Cole has put up another formidable season, as he currently ranks first among New York starters in innings pitched (106.1), strikeout percentage (31.9 percent), and FIP (3.40). Unfortunately for Cole, however, Rafael Devers has been an absolute thorn in his side. Last weekend, Cole managed to get through six innings, but he gave up five runs, all of which came on homers off the bat of Devers. That performance put an end to a terrific run of four-straight starts where Cole never surrendered more than two runs in a game. Cole has uncharacteristically struggled against the Red Sox throughout his career (4.30 ERA in 69 innings), but the Yankees will need him to be in top form as they ride one last start from their ace into the All-Star break.
On the other hand, the Red Sox ace makes his long-awaited return to the Bronx. Previously out with a stress fracture in his rib, Chris Sale made his season debut on July 12th against the Tampa Bay Rays, when he gave up three hits, one walk, and no runs while striking out five in five innings. With such a limited sample size, it’s really tough to get a read on what to expect from Sale this weekend. I imagine he’ll be on a pitch count limit of some sort (for what it’s worth, he threw 78 against the Rays), but whether he’ll have a bit longer of a leash in his second game remains to be seen. He has some pretty great numbers against the Yankees throughout his career, though, so injury or not, this lineup will likely have its work cut out for them.