It is very strange that it has taken so long in 2023 for us to get the first edition of Yankees vs. Red Sox. For the record, I’m not complaining. These games always feel extra stressful for all parties involved, and 19 times is just too many against one opponent. I was a big fan of MLB balancing the schedule a little bit more, and another huge change for 2023 is sure to have an impact on these showdowns too: the pitch clock.
Oh, sweet beautiful pitch clock. You will save me from the high-three-hour/four-hour Yankees/Red Sox games that should only take three at most. (I’m still haunted by the sluggish pace of this one in particular.) As I’ve said before, I will always love quality in-game action, but the pitch clock will cull so much dead time from showdowns like this one. Too many people on both sides of this rivalry have combined to waste a combined day of my life just futzing around the batter’s box and on the mound.
Although the Red Sox currently find themselves in last place in the AL East at exactly .500 (31-31), they still look like a better group than their underachieving 2022 squad. The No. 1 issue is that these Sox can still smash when they get on a run, and 7 of their 10 players who have made at least 100 plate appearances thus far have a league-average OPS+ or better. New NPB signing Masataka Yoshida has led the way with a .318/.391/.498 triple slash and a 139 OPS+, but Alex Verdugo and old friend Rob Refsnyder have chipped with perfectly cromulent 120 marks. Former Dodger Justin Turner has had a steady bat at DH, outfielder Adam Duvall is fresh off the IL after a broken wrist sidelined him from mid-April onward, and recently-extended superstar Rafael Devers hasn’t even caught fire yet. He has 13 homers, but he’s obviously a better hitter than his 107 OPS+. Beware.
Fortunately for Aaron Boone, he has his best pitcher ready to take on Boston tonight. Gerrit Cole looked much better in his first start of June after he followed an AL Pitcher of the Month win in April with a rocky May. The ace threw six innings of four-hit, one-run ball at Dodger Stadium on just 80 pitches before cramping led to an earlier-than-expected departure. The pressure will be on Cole to give New York some length after they had to use the bullpen for 7.1 innings yesterday due to the doubleheader. Michael King and Ron Marinaccio in particular might not be available over throwing at least two innings apiece.
Baby Bomber alumnus Garrett Whitlock gets the ball for the Red Sox in this Gerrit vs. Garrett throwdown. Although elbow neuritis has limited him to five starts in the early offing, he’s contributed to the Boston pitching staff’s dismal results the whole. In 25.2 innings, the 2021 breakout and solid 2022 piece has underwhelmed with a 5.61 ERA, 4.96 FIP, and a dip in strikeout rate to 7.0 K/9. Whitlock went five innings of one-run ball in his first start off the IL against Arizona on May 27th, but the Rays got to him for four runs on six hits and two walks in 4.2 innings during his last time out at Fenway.
The main note in the Yankees’ lineup tonight is that Gleyber Torres is off today, with DJ LeMahieu subbing in at second and leadoff. Josh Donaldson will follow him in the lineup and man third. The various outfield alignments with Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader out will never not be weird and I don’t necessarily disagree with the formation, but it remains eyebrow-raising to see Billy McKinney, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Jake Bauers from left to right. Torres will be joined on the Yankees’ bench by Willie Calhoun, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Kyle Higashioka.
Even with the injuries, I think that the Yankees are a better team than the Red Sox and that they should win this series, especially at home. Get off to a good start with a win behind the ace tonight to take the stress off Saturday and Sunday. Simple as that.
How to watch
Location: Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY
First pitch: 7:05 pm ET
TV broadcast: YES, NESN, MLB Network (out-of-market only)
Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9, WADO 1280
Online stream: MLB.tv