Once again the Red Sox failed to make full advantage of a home series, dropping the final game. They still won the series 2-1 but of all people, Chris Sale cost them the final game. The momentum going into this series in London would be much greater if they had avoided that upset. This upcoming series is a celebration of baseball. It is is an advert for the sport in another country (my country), but it is also a competitive regular season series, and business needs to be taken care of.
Both Porcello and Rodriguez have solid numbers in their careers against the Yankees, with both having ERAs under four. Porcello has started 23 times against the Yankees, throwing 146 1/3 innings. However, in his only start against them this season he allowed five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings, so will be looking to bounce back. Rodriguez has a 3.89 ERA in 12 starts and two relief appearances, spanning 69 1/3 innings. However, he allowed 13 earned runs in 17 2/3 innings against them last season. The Yankees have a really good lineup, and the Red Sox will need these two to be at the top of their game.
Tanaka has been good this season, with a season-long 3.21 ERA. His ERA is a fraction worse on the road, but at 3.89 it is not a significant difference. Last season Tanaka was roughed up by the Red Sox, allowing 16 earned runs in 19 innings.
J.A. Happ loves facing the Red Sox, as he has just a 3.00 ERA against them in his career. In fact, of the 43 runs he has allowed against the Red Sox in his career, 10 of those came in the first two years of his career, back in 2009 and 2010. In the last four seasons, he has allowed 19 earned runs in 77 innings, with 64 strikeouts and 25 walks.
The Yankees have really struggled against left-handed pitchers this season. They have a .235 batting average and a .398 slugging percentage against lefties, both of which rank in the bottom third of the league. However, against right-handed pitchers they have had much more success. They rank second in the league in batting average at .271, and third in slugging at .479. Frustratingly, the Red Sox have their only right-handed pitcher on the mound in this series, and they head to London with just one left-handed reliever.
The Red Sox have also been slightly better against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. They rank 16th in slugging and 20th in batting average against lefties, but first in batting average and fifth in slugging against right-handed pitchers. Those two sets of numbers suggest we could be in for a high scoring game Saturday, before a tighter contest potentially on Sunday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pitching: A subplot to this series will be the battle of the bullpens. The Yankees bullpen is more glamorous than the Red Sox when it comes to names and salary. However, the Red Sox have marginally been outperforming their counterparts, with a 3.97 ERA compared to a 4.01 ERA for the Yankees.
Hitting: The Red Sox lineup has been left a little behind by the Yankees this season. They rank fairly close in runs, with the Yankees having just a five-run edge. However, the Yankees have hit 19 more home runs and rank fourth in slugging percentage compared to the Red Sox 10th. If Saturday does become a slugfest, these could be numbers that suggest the Red Sox might find themselves marginally outgunned.
Hopefully this series is going to be a lot of fun in London, and hopefully, two wins will make it even more fun. The weather in London is expected to be roasting hot on Saturday, and while not as hot Sunday, still toasty. With no real knowledge of how the park will fare in terms of its slant towards hitters or pitchers, that weather could be enough to give offenses a boost.
The Red Sox need these wins badly. They currently sit nine games back on the Yankees, but two wins here would be huge. If the Red Sox can head back to America with two wins under their belts then they could have the perfect momentum boost to launch their challenge in the second half. Hopefully, their experience of playing the early start on Patriot Day will serve them well for the 10 am East Coast start time on Sunday.