After all of the optimism of last week, the Red Sox enter this series on a low. Having taken five of their previous six games, they are now on a four-game losing streak. Dropping two games to the rays was bad. Losing all three was a disaster. There was a real chance the Red Sox could have come into this series seven-ish games behind the Yankees, with the chance to get within five. Instead, they are 10.5 behind, and even if everything goes perfect they will still be over seven games behind.
7/25 Eduardo Rodriguez vs. James Paxton (L) 7:05 pm NESN
7/26 Chris Sale vs. Domingo German (R) 1:05 pm NESN
7/27 Brian Johnson vs. TBD 7:05 pm NESN
7/28 David Price vs. J.A. Happ (L) 7:00 pm ESPN
Eduardo Rodriguez really turned it on in July after a mixed start of the season. After allowing 52 earned runs in his first 97 2/3 innings, he allowed just seven earned runs in 31 innings in July, giving him a 2.03 ERA. His one Achilles heel here could be that he has a 4.35 ERA on the road, but much of that damage was done prior to the July turn around. Rodrguez could get the Red Sox off to a flying start in this series.
What a strange season it has been for James Paxton at home. In his first five home starts he allowed just one earned run in 26 2/3 innings with 37 strikeouts. However, in the last five starts in New York things have somewhat changed. In 21 1/3 innings he has allowed 19 earned runs with 24 strikeouts. It has been a clear season of two halves so far, so which Paxton will we see this time around?
Domingo German has been superb at home this season, with a 2.13 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of those home starts. That matchup with Sale in the early start on Saturday is going to be a fascinating watch, but it might be hard for Sale to come out on top.
The Red Sox could not have a better combination of pitchers in this series, given they have three left-handed pitchers and the Yankees are distinctly average against lefties this season. They rank 15th in the league in batting average, 14th in slugging percentage and ISO, and 11th in K%.
So far the Red Sox offense has built through the season, and they appear to be peaking right now. Having hit just .239 in April/May, they hit .302 in July, with a .534 slugging percentage and 173 runs scored. They could not be heading into New York in much better form at the plate than they are.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: The red Sox pitching staff has generally been better on the road this season. Yes, they have allowed more home runs in fewer games on the road, but around that they have performed better. On the road, they own a 4.34 ERA and a .249 batting average against. This is important because the Red Sox need to keep picking up wins away from home. They are also likely to be playing playoff series as the road team, and given their home form they will need to pinch a few games on the road if they want to make a deep playoff run.
Hitting: Andrew Benintendi has received a lot of flack this season for his performance. However, what he does extremely well is hit the Yankees. In his career he hits .317 with a .523 slugging percentage against them. He has been especially good these past two seasons, hitting over .300 both years. This season, in 36 PA he is hitting .396 with two home runs and five extra-base hits. In big spots this season the Red Sox will be hoping that Benintendi can continue that form.
It is too early to completely write off the Red Sox shot at the division, but after this most recent series, it is hanging by a thread. For the last month or so they have Yo-Yo’d around this 8-10 game mark behind the Yankees. It is realistic to say that the Wildcard is their most likely route to the playoffs. However, that does not mean they should not target the division.
This will be a tough series, but then we were saying this last week at this time. The Red Sox proved last week that they can go toe-to-toe with this Yankees team. Even if they do not ultimately win the division, taking these games off the Yankees now could reap psychological benefits down the road. This series may ultimately end up not mattering for the division, but for the wildcard, the pride of the Red Sox and potentially putting fear into this Yankees team, it matters a lot.