Clay Buchholz

Weekend Preview: Yankees vs. Red Sox, Part III

It’s Friday! Time for another Weekend Preview.

Things are looking pretty good in the land of the Red Sox. They have won four straight games, and their last four series, taking two of three from the Rays, three of four from the Jays, two of three from the Astros, and then sweeping a two-game set against the Marlins this week. All of this, coupled with a sputtering Yankees team that’s just 5-5 in its last 10 games, means the Red Sox come into the weekend with a chance to get right back into the thick of the race in the American League East. They are currently four games under .500, and only 5.5 games back of the first place Yankees. While the Sox are still on the outside looking in, they are not nearly as far outside as they were just two weeks ago. A sweep in this important intra-division series would be a beautiful thing, and really set things up for a fun second half of the season.

All of a sudden this Red Sox team is fun to watch again. It is amazing what winning can do.

New York Yankees – Record (46-39) – Projected Record (85-77)

The Yankees have been a surprising team thus far. Most projection systems had them at a modest likelihood of making the playoffs, but with their performance to date, and poor play from teams like the Red Sox, the Yankees have one of the largest increases in playoff odds on the season. The Yanks have accomplished this rise largely through their offense. They have scored the third most runs in the game, behind only the Blue Jays and Astros and by wRC+ they have been the fifth best offense, although by TAv they have only been the ninth best. The pitching and defense have not been so great. They own the tenth worst team ERA, although their 11th best fielding-independent mark suggests they should be better. Much of that ERA problem comes from their starting rotation, which has posted a 4.31 ERA, the 9th worst mark in baseball. CC Sabathia has lost too much velocity to remain effective, Masahiro Tanaka’s last few starts suggest he may need another month-long break, and Nathan Eovaldi is in the Joe Kelly camp of having potential but no ability to translate it to performance. Michael Pineda (3.79 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 105/13 K/BB) has been the lone bright spot of the rotation. The Yankees’ bullpen on the other hand, with Andrew Miller back from injury and Dellin Betances at the backend, is a really strong part of the team.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Yankees’ ride to first place is that they have performed at the level they have without being entirely healthy. Jacoby Ellsbury was on the disabled list for the last seven weeks with a sprained knee, just returning to the team on Tuesday. Insert dumb Ellsbury is injury-prone joke here. Miller missed the last month with a forearm issue, also just re-joining the team. Ivan Nova, expected to be a strong part of their rotation, missed the first two-and-a-half months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees weathered the storm of the absence of these key contributors, are now back to having more or less the team they intended to roll out, and should be ready for the second half.


Game 1: Clay Buchholz vs. Michael Pineda, Friday 7:10pm EDT

Buchholz has been far and away the best starting pitcher on the Red Sox this year. In his last two starts, against quality offensive teams in Houston and Toronto, Buchholz was dominant: 17 innings pitched, 11 hits, two runs, no walks, and 13 strikeouts. That might seem like a cherry-picked selection, and well, it is, but you can go back farther than that to show how strong Buchholz has been. His last bad outing was on June 7th against Oakland. Looking at his season, there is a reasonable case to be made that he has only had three bad starts (including that outing against Oakland). One of the others was on April 12th in Yankee Stadium, when he allowed 10 runs in 3.1 innings. Hopefully he fares better this time around against the Yankee lineup.

Buchholz:Red Sox :: Michael Pineda:Yankees. Pineda has easily been the Yankees best starting pitcher this year. He strikes out a lot of batters – he struck out 16 Orioles on May 10th – and limits hard contact. His delivery helps him do these things, as it is one that batters find deceptive, which makes it that much more difficult to pick up on his already quality pitches. Fenway Park is the location of what is likely his most embarrassing professional moment: when he was dinged for having a ridiculous amount of pine tar on his neck. But otherwise he has pitched well at Fenway, and against the Red Sox generally. He comes into Boston looking to follow up on his last two excellent starts against the Astros and Rays.

Game 2: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Ivan Nova, Saturday 7:15pm EDT

Eduardo Rodriguez has certainly been the Red Sox’s second best starter this season. Of his eight starts to date he has only had two really rough starts; both coincidentally against American League East opponents. The first was against the lefty-mashing Blue Jays, and the second was against the Orioles, a start in which it was determined that he was tipping his pitches. While the pitch tipping is absolutely a cause for concern, his two outings since the Orioles roughed him up have been good. The Yankees represent another inter-division test for Rodriguez. If he can limit the Yankees offense, the Red Sox will have even more reason to be confident in the duo they have at the front end of their rotation going forward.

Nova has made three decent starts since rejoining the team. The 2.65 ERA looks nice, but the 4.79 FIP is ominous. This is a product of his strikeout rate being well below career norms, his walk rate being well above them, and some good fortune with allowing fewer home runs per fly ball than is typical. However, it must be noted that he has only thrown 17 innings, so these marks are all posted in a small sample and a lot could change over his next handful of starts. He does not appear to have lost velocity in his time away from pitching, which is good news for Nova and the Yankees. They will need him to regain his 2013 form if they intend on holding onto first place the rest of the way.

Game 3: Wade Miley vs. Nathan Eovaldi, Sunday 1:35pm EDT

You know who has been the Red Sox’s third best starter this season? Wade Miley. Yes. Wade Miley. To some extent this is a function of his being the best of the worst, but he has been fine. His ERA is still well above league average, but his FIP is right around league average, which is what we should expect, and suggests there is some room for improvement. He pitched very well on Tuesday against the Marlins, striking out nine batters and only allowing three runs over 6.2 innings. Sunday will mark Miley’s third outing against the Yankees this year. He performed well in the first two, so ideally he can continue his success against them and lead the Red Sox into the All-Star break on a positive note.

I mentioned above that Eovaldi has some Joe Kelly similarities in that he has struggled to fully harness his potential. He throws hard (averages 96 mph on his fastball), but does not overpower batters to the point of getting a lot of strikeouts, and has trouble commanding his velocity, leading to way too many walks. The 67/26 K/BB is not great. Eovaldi has a 4.45 ERA on the season, but his 3.66 FIP points to his having been better than the ERA shows.

Opposing Lineup:

As mentioned, the Yankees’ offense has been the one of the top five in the game so far this season. They score a lot of runs and do so by hitting home runs (their Guillen # of 47.12 is the highest in the game). The Yanks’ lineup is a bit top-heavy, with the first six spots in the order presenting a significant challenge. There is a lot of power there: Brett Gardner (10 HR, .478 SLG), Chase Headley (8, .368), A-Rod (16, .505), Mark Teixeira (20, .522), and Brian McCann (13, .469). Headley is still not hitting at his typical level, but he is still a threat. Even the bottom part of the lineup is no walk in the park. The Garrett Jones, Chris Young, Didi Gregorious and old pal Stephen Drew group have combined to hit 31 homers. This team can hit.






Jacoby Ellsbury





Brett Gardner





Alex Rodriguez





Mark Teixeira





Brian McCann





Chase Headley





Chris Young





Didi Gregorious





Stephen Drew




The Yankees’ don’t really have a standout platoon split to speak of, as they hit righties and lefties at about the same level. So there are not really clear platoon partner substitutions to expect from the lineup given above. The main split of interest for this offense is their home/road split. This group has hit much better at home (123 wRC+, 5.54 runs per game) than on the road (88 wRC+, 3.77 runs per game), which bodes well for the Sox this weekend at Fenway.


This is a big series for both of these teams. With a series win the Yankees can halt the ongoing Red Sox surge up the standings, while a series win for the Red Sox will really reinsert them back into the mix going in to the All-Star break. The Red Sox have three of their better starters taking the mound in the series, and the Red Sox’s resurgent offense should be capable of knocking the Yankees starters around. This should be a really interesting series.

Photo by Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports Images

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