Aaron Boone said “concern” isn’t the right word to describe his state of mind when it comes to the red-hot Red Sox.
“No, not at all,” the Yankees manager said shortly before his club departed for the All-Star break. “There’s nothing we can do. We’ve got the Mets. That’s our next up. That’ll be what we focus on. Hopefully you get some cooperation standings-wise [in the second half], but you drive yourself crazy in July trying to keep track of that. Just take care of our own house and hopefully start with a good series and a good game Friday against the Mets.”
The Subway Series is never entirely without buzz — the intensity of both teams’ fan bases assures that — but some series matchups bring more than others.
And the latest edition, which as Boone alluded to starts Friday night at the Stadium, clearly falls closer to the lower-buzz end of the stick.
The Yankees enter the second half 62-33, good enough for the third-best record in baseball but still 4 ½ games behind the Red Sox, who have been rolling all season.
The Mets have been rolling in the other direction since their 11-1 start, 39-55 overall and battling the Marlins for last in the NL East.
None of which is to stay the Yankees are necessarily a heavy favorite for the series.
In order to get Luis Severino and CC Sabathia some extended rest to start the season’s second half, the Yankees will throw Domingo German, Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka against Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom.
Severino and Sabathia will pitch Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in St. Petersburg against the Rays.
The Yankees’ rotation will dominate local headlines leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. It’s been an area general manager Brian Cashman has been looking to upgrade since the winter. J.A. Happ, Michael Fulmer and Cole Hamels are among the starters the Yankees have checked in on — just to name a few — but that isn’t something Boone has obsessed about.
“I don’t have any expectation,” Boone said of a starting pitcher being added. “I know Cash and the guys are turning over every leaf and kicking the tires on everything and I’m sure making proposals and counters and all of that. So I know we’re going to try. Comes down to does it make the most sense for us short term and long term? But I think as I’ve said before, it takes two to tango. If the right deal comes about I think we’ll make it but I don’t think anything’s certain.”
Except, in the season’s first half anyway, the Red Sox (68-30) winning and winning and winning.
It’s something the Yankees obviously are very much aware of as the second half begins, but are not focused on daily. Instead, the focus is improved play from a team that’s 29 games over .500, which in the AL East isn’t quite good enough.
“I think if you asked all the guys in the room, I think guys would say they can do a little better,” Brett Gardner said. “I think I can play better, we can pitch a little better, I think we probably play a little better defense, and we’re capable of scoring more runs. I think there’s definitely room for improvement all across the board.”
Added Boone: “Where can we improve? Everywhere. I think one of the signs of a potentially great team is you’re not satisfied with anything we’ve done to this point. A handful of guys have had really great years, but there’s probably even more guys in that room that certainly feel like they can be even better. That’s our expectation moving forward.”
Three keys for the Yankees in the Subway Series:
We jest, we jest. The reality is, part of the history of the Subway Series is the heavily favored team doesn’t always win. Additionally, in the season’s first half, the Yankees didn’t always play their best against weak teams, evidenced by their 5-5 record vs. the Orioles.
Team records aside, the Mets should be the favorite to win this series, at least based on the starting pitching matchups. Domingo German (2-5, 5.49 ERA) starts Friday, followed by Sonny Gray (6-7, 5.46) and Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.54). The Mets counter with Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom, their ace.
Catcher Gary Sanchez is expected to return from the disabled list, where he’s been rehabbing a right groin strain, on Friday. Sanchez has more than respectable homer and RBI numbers (14 and 41), but he, and the Yankees, expect better than his .190 average and .291 OBP. Will this weekend be the start of a second-half Sanchez surge?