BOSTON — The Yankees are about to get their first crack at the team general manager Brian Cashman referred to as baseball’s Golden State Warriors.
Oddly, the Yankees, for whom expectations were relatively low, take a slightly better record (11-7) into the three-game series, which starts Tuesday night at Fenway Park, than the Red Sox (11-8).
In the offseason, the Red Sox added Chris Sale to an already stout rotation — the trade for the ace lefthander prompting Cashman’s much-repeated “Boston’s like the Golden State Warriors now in baseball,” comment at the winter meetings. The Red Sox returned most of a powerful lineup (David Ortiz being a notable exception) that led the American League in runs last season. The Red Sox were just about everyone’s preseason favorite in the American League East.
“They’re probably the club that every team wants to be like in the division,” Chase Headley said. “They have a bunch of real ly good young players that have matured and done some really good things, and obviously have frontline starting pitching. It’s going to be a challenge for us, but I think we’ll enjoy the challenge and go in there and use it a little bit as a measuring stick, and go in there and see what we can do. But I feel like we’re playing great and if we play the way we’re capable, we’ll have a good series.”
The Yankees are coming off a series loss in Pittsburgh, though they’ve still won 10 of their last 13 games.
“It’ll be fun to match up with them, kind of see where we’re at,” said first baseman Greg Bird, who has struggled in April with a .104 average and .204 on-base percentage. “It’s just another series we’re trying to win. If we do that consistently, we’ll be in a good place.”
The Red Sox haven’t played consistently at all, though they can point to an amalgam of reasons why. David Price, signed to a seven-year, $217-million deal before the 2016 season, has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with left arm and elbow soreness. There was a particularly virulent flu bug that steamrolled through the clubhouse — a handful of players, including Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez and Robbie Ross Jr. missed time — plus a knee injury to Jackie Bradley Jr., and vertigo recently felled Brock Holt. Then there’s the left knee injury suffered Friday night by Dustin Pedroia, the result of a sloppy slide by the Orioles’ Manny Machado.
“They’ve been through all kinds of things the first month of the season, whether it’s been some injuries or the flu bug or whatever,” Joe Girardi said. “Our club went through something like a flu bug, but our guys weren’t getting dehydrated by [it]. So they’ve been through a lot. But they’re very talented, we understand that and you do want to see how you match up.”
The Yankees did not match up especially well against the Red Sox in 2016, going 8-11, including 2-8 at Fenway. On their way to the division title, the Red Sox swept a four-game series Sept. 15-18, which effectively ended the Yankees’ playoff hopes.
Regardless, players said, playing at Fenway remains special.
“The energy there is as good as anywhere in the major leagues and, obviously, Yankees-Red Sox, it’s amplified,” said Headley, who first visited Fenway in interleague play while a member of the Padres in 2013. “It’s such a cool ballpark.”
Bird, 24, made his big-league debut Aug. 13, 2015, and got his first taste of Fenway in a three-game series several weeks later. The Yankees won two of three, with Bird homering off Henry Owens in a 13-8 victory Sept. 2.
“Getting to play at Fenway, there’s not a lot of those old parks left, so it’s cool to play somewhere where there’s so much baseball history,” Bird said. “It’s just different. It’s not a cut-and-dried, wraparound stadium. There’s nooks and crannies everywhere. It’s just unique. For me, Fenway’s one of a kind.”
Pitching matchups for the Yankees’ three-game series at Fenway Park:
Luis Severino (1-1, 4.05) vs. Rick Porcello (1-2, 5.32)
Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 6.00) vs. Chris Sale (1-1, 0.91)
CC Sabathia (2-1, 2.70) vs. Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 4.60)