By Matt Straub
This is one of the biggest sports weekends in recent memory. The NFL Draft is now a multi-day event, the Kentucky Derby is Saturday, and the biggest boxing match in 30 years has taken over much of the sports media’s attention.
There also happens to be another installment of the best rivalry in sports - the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. This weekend’s three game set is in Boston and features two teams going in different directions. The Yankees are red hot and surging up the standings, while the Red Sox have plummeted from their perch above the division.
It’s a big early-season battle of teams who hate each other and want to grab a good spot in the division, so it’s worth finding time this weekend to watch it all.
New York Yankees (13-9, 1st place AL East)
at Boston Red Sox (12-10, third place AL East)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
CC Sabathia (0-4 .5.96) vs. Justin Masterson (2-0, 5.16)
Saturday 1:35 p.m.
Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.15) vs. Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.
Adam Warren (1-1, 4.35) vs. Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94)
The Red Sox come in having won two-of-three from Toronto and, more importantly, having received a solid pitching performance from a starter Wednesday night, when Rick Porcello gave the Sox seven innings and, at least for a day, made them forget about their pitching woes. For all their problems, the Sox are 3-3 in their last six and have prevented the division, particularly the Yankees, from getting away from them early. The Yankees, meanwhile, have quietly become the best team in the AL East so far. With all the attention being paid to the now slumping Mets, the Yanks have won seven of nine against some very good teams, at least record wise. Their pitching has been strong without many quality starts and their offense has been good without a high batting average. It’s a weird way to thrive, but the Yankees are doing so thus far.
Three Yankees Storylines
1. Masahiro Tanaka is out at least a month, forcing the Yankees to find some help in the pitching staff, but at least it isn’t his elbow this time. Chase Whitley seems like a solid alternative, but the Yankees might be asking even more of their bullpen in the days ahead.
2. Friday night begins a stretch of 17 games in 17 days for the Yankees, who will need pitching more than ever in the next two-plus weeks. Joe Girardi must avoid overtaxing the pen, meaning the starters will have to be big during this stretch. A little rain would help, too.
3. Alex Rodriguez still needs a home run to catch Willie Mays. Whatever you think of him, that’s a big deal, and it could happen in Boston. The whole dynamic, whether it be the Fenway fans or the team trying to keep him from collecting his bonuses, will make the home run surreal, which too much of A-Rod’s career has become.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. The Red Sox bullpen is such a mess they have to call someone new up every day, and the number's game forced them to designate Anthony Varvaro, a halfway decent arm, in order to make sure they had enough arms for every day. Finding enough consistent arms to avoid more constant shuffling is crucial for a team that can’t rely on its offense every night.
2. Hanley Ramirez is one of the hottest hitters in baseball. Boston can’t count on 10 homers every month, but seeing him healthy and productive is crucial for the middle of Boston’s order, which is a necessity since the pitching staff is in shambles. The starting rotation is on pace for one of, if not the worst, April in team history.
3. Boston’s run of division opponents continues for two more series after this one, then comes a West Coast trip. The Red Sox need to at least tread water over the next two weeks or so while they figure everything out, which won’t be easy on the road and against the division.
The Red Sox host Tampa Bay, while the Yankees face a trip to Toronto.