By Matt Straub
While the Mets and Braves are about to throw the clock back a decade to when their rivalry was at its peak, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are preparing to play another round in a series which doesn’t have the juice it did a decade ago. It’s still the Yankees and Red Sox, and the fans of each team will get fired up. The players will still be one misplaced fastball away from a weekend full of harsh words and beanballs. But the playoff atmosphere which existed every time the teams met a decade ago has been replaced by the hopes of something exciting happening.
Fortunately, the two teams are playing early enough in the year where each has big playoff dreams and someone will be getting a bit of a quick advantage on the other. So let’s break down the first three of the nearly 20 meetings between the teams this year.
Boston Red Sox (2-1, first place AL East)
at New York Yankees (1-2, fourth place AL East)
Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Wade Miley (Career: 38-35, 3.79 ERA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (Career: 15-35, 4.07)
Saturday, 1:05 p.m.
Joe Kelly (Career: 21-16, 3.41) vs. Adam Warren (Career: 6-8, 3.47)
Sunday 8:05 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (2015: 1-0, 0.00) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (2015: 0-1, 9.00)
The Red Sox started the year nicely, winning two of three, though I don’t think they will be getting too high over winning a series against the lowly Phillies, who are worse than I even thought. Still, Boston’s offense gave us a glimpse of how good it can be, while the pitching held up (again, against the Phillies). The Yankees have no momentum at all, having lost two of three at home to Toronto, with Tanaka and CC Sabathia both losing their games. The offense struggled with men in scoring position Thursday, though Alex Rodriguez continued to impress after missing last season.
Three Yankees Storylines
1. A-Rod’s back. He homered last night after a solid spring. He’s forcing the Yankees to give him more at-bats than they would like, but he is also giving them a decent bat they desperately need. The average looks bad, but it dipped off of one bad game. He’s 2-for-5 in the other two outings.
2. The rotation is a huge concern. Sabathia and Tanaka were both hit hard in their first outings of the year. It’s way too early to be overly concerned, but Tanaka’s elbow has everyone wondering if it will hold up and Sabathia isn’t exactly his younger self anymore. This series will actually be a good test for the Yankees, who will need more form the back of their rotation than other teams.
3. So is the offense. Jacoby Ellsbury is the only Yankee with three hits in three games. Older players often tend to get off to slow starts, but the Yankees have to be worried about where the runs are going to come from if no one is hitting the ball.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. The bats are booming. Boston has scored 18 runs in three games. Even if it came in Philadelphia, that’s still impressive. The Red Sox have five home runs already, and the big names are producing. Hanley Ramirez is hitting like Manny Ramirez, Dusting Pedroia is apparently healthy and trying to prove my bold prediction wrong, and Xander Bogaerts had the big hit of the game Thursday night, with three overall.
2. Rick Porcello is a very rich man. Boston gave him $82 million for the next four years. Porcello was by far my favorite offseason pitching acquisition, but this contract is insane. He’s a good number two on his best day, not a $20 million a year guy. By the way, he got shelled in the sixth inning in his first start.
3. David Ortiz has been awful. He has five strikeouts in seven at-bats to go with one hit. Maybe it was playing the field, perhaps it’s just a slow start. Either way, Ortiz was God awful in Philadelphia. The scary thing, however, is thinking about what Boston can do when he gets hot and Mike Napoli is in the lineup with him, something we missed with interleague play.
Boston hosts Washington in what it hopes is a World Series preview while the Yankees head to Baltimore for a big early season set.