One of the premier rivalries in sports will resume Tuesday when the Red Sox head to the Bronx to face the first-place Yankees for a three-game set.
Less than a month ago, the Red Sox sat just five games out of first in the AL East and were preparing to host the Yankees for a pivotal three-game series at Fenway Park before the All-Star break. Now, after losing 2-of-3 to New York and 11-of-13 since the series, the Red Sox have fallen back to double-digit games out and the Yankees have taken control of the division.
The Red Sox have won three out of their last four games as their offense powered them through their last series against the Rays. The Sox scored 20-plus runs in a three-game set for the third time this season en route to their second series win since their last meeting with the Yankees. They are now 47-59 and 13 games out of first in the division.
Over their last seven games, the Red Sox offense owns the MLB’s sixth-best WAR (1.5). As a team, they have slashed .295/.349/.443 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. The corner infield spots have all of a sudden become home to the Red Sox hottest hitters as Mike Napoli and Travis Shaw combined to hit .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs in the last week. Shaw has been especially impressive as he went 4-for-4 Saturday with two longballs, a double and three RBIs.
“I feel pretty good at the plate,” Shaw said after the game, an 11-7 Red Sox victory. “Just trying to not do too much, just stick with what I’ve done down there. I’ve been successful down there and trying to carry that up here.”
“I try and control what I can control,” Shaw added. “Each day that I am in the lineup up here try and make the most of and hopefully that speaks for its self.”
While Shaw and the Red Sox offense have streaked of late, so has the Yankees’. During the last 14 days, the Yankees have had the best lineup in baseball, scoring 94 runs and logging a .305/.372/.533 team slash line on the backs of Mark Teixeira (six home runs), Alex Rodriguez (five home runs) and Chase Headley (12 RBIs).
This offensive outburst has helped the Yankees to a 59-45 record and a six-game lead over the Orioles and Blue Jays in the AL East. They have won 10 of their last 15, highlighted by a 21-5 drubbing of the Rangers on July 28 and a 13-6 win over the White Sox last Friday.
Surprisingly, the Yankees didn’t make any major moves at the trade deadline. With speculation circulating that they would try to land a top-tier starter like David Price or Cole Hamels, the Yankees front office told the public to expect a quiet deadline and they followed through on their promise.
Instead of improving via trade, the Yankees have chosen to rely on their farm system to aid in their playoff push. On the day of the trade deadline, they promoted top right-handed pitching prospect Luis Severino, who will make his major league debut Wednesday against the Red Sox, one day after the Red Sox’ Henry Owens makes his. Severino has gone 9-2 with a 2.45 ERA in the minors this season, which includes a 7-0 record and a 1.91 ERA at Triple-A Scranton in 11 starts.
“He moved really fast through the system and obviously had a lot of success,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said of Severino. “We’ll see what the next level is going to be like for him and hopefully he can contribute and add into the cast of characters.”
Here are the pitching matchups for the series:
Tuesday: Henry Owens (ML debut) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (7-4, 3.80 ERA)
Wednesday: Steven Wright (4-4, 4.53 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (ML debut)
Thursday: Eduardo Rodriguez (6-3, 4.34 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (4-8, 5.54 ERA)
WHO’S HOT: RED SOX
— Shaw has taken advantage of his opportunities at the big league level. Aside from his 4-for-4, two-homer effort on Saturday, he has gone 9-for-23 in 11 major league games, scoring seven runs and posting a blistering 1.136 OPS.
— Xander Bogaerts has not seen his 2015 season-long rejuvenation waver. During his last 36 games, the 22-year-old shortstop has hit .371 with 13 doubles. Against the Rays, he went 5-for-12 with three RBIs and just one strikeout.
— Owens will get the nod Tuesday for the Red Sox as the lefty makes his much-anticipated major league debut. In 21 starts at the Triple-A level this season, he sports a 3.16 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP.
WHO’S HOT: YANKEES
— Teixeira has been key for the Yankees all season. He had back-to-back two homer games on July 30 and 31, accruing eight RBIs in 48 hours. He is 7-for-his-last-15 with six extra-base hits and a 2.112 OPS.
— Not known for his offense, Didi Gregorius has changed his approach at the plate and it is working wonders. Over his last 10 games, the Yankee shortstop is slashing .472/.488/.611 with 13 RBIs and nine runs.
— Severino is impact-ready as he prepares for the big stage Wednesday. He has given up less than two runs in 13 of his last 14 minor league starts.
WHO’S NOT: RED SOX
— Though his defense might be improving slightly, Hanley Ramirez‘s offense has left much to be desired of late. Over his last 23 games, the left fielder has hit just two home runs while striking out 20 times in 94 plate appearances.
— Every time the Red Sox bring up Jackie Bradley Jr., hope abounds that he will overcome the issues with his swing and become a regular in the Sox outfield. Yet, on each occasion Red Sox fans are disappointed. This stint has proven no different. In five games since being called up on July 29, Bradley has reached base three times. For the season, he has five hits in 53 plate appearances.
— Steven Wright has been inconsistent of late in the Red Sox rotation. Despite a seven-inning, two-run effort against the White Sox last Sunday, he has racked up a 5.51 ERA over his last three starts, resulting in two Sox losses.
WHO’S NOT: YANKEES
— All-Star outfielder Brett Gardner has cooled off of late, posting just one hit in his last 18 plate appearances while striking out five times.
— Stephen Drew has had an underwhelming 2015 to say the least as he maintains a .199/.268/.390 slash line. Unfortunately, he’s gotten worse lately too. The 2013 Red Sox World Series champion has not walked since July 22 and has just one home run since July 8.
— In the wake of debilitating knee issues, Sabathia’s career appears to have bottomed out completely in 2015. The hulking southpaw has the third-worst ERA among starters with at least 100 innings pitched at 5.54. He has given up five runs in two consecutive starts and opponents have slugged .652 in these outings.