Fenway Park is either the best or worst place for the Yankees to start the season’s second half.
The pros: The Red Sox lead the Yankees by 3 ½ games as the four-game series begins Friday night, so the opportunity to quickly make up ground exists.
The cons: The Yankees skidded into the All-Star break, losing 18 of 25 games to complete the first half at 45-41.
Their second half already started with a loss of sorts Thursday when the White Sox dealt lefthander Jose Quintana, a potential Yankees target at the trade deadline, to the scuffling Cubs.
The Yankees, like every other team in the market for a starter, had an interest in Quintana, but, contrary to some portrayals, it’s not as if the Cubs undercut the Yankees. There was interest, yes, but Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wasn’t inclined to part with the kind of prospects it would have taken to get a deal done.
“So far, I can tell you the sticker prices are pretty high,” Cashman told the YES Network over the weekend, not speaking specifically of Quintana. “I’d like to think our fan base would be happy that we’re saying no to a lot of things that are currently being presented to us. But you keep working through it.”
Cashman was able to make one minor move on Thursday, sending lefthander Tyler Webb to the Brewers in exchange for minor-league first baseman Garrett Cooper. The move adds needed first-base depth as it increasingly looks as if Greg Bird, battling a right ankle bone bruise since late March, won’t be able to significantly contribute to the big-league club this season.
Cooper, 26, a Triple-A All-Star, had a .366/.428/.652 slash line in 75 games for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The 6-6, 230-pound righthanded hitter has 17 homers and 82 RBIs and will begin his Yankees career with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
How much more the Yankees do before the July 31 trade deadline could be determined by the challenging three-city, 11-game trip that starts in Boston (including a Sunday doubleheader), continues in Minneapolis against the surprising Twins and concludes in Seattle against the streaky Mariners.
Not surprisingly, Yankees players, fully aware of their subpar play in recent weeks, see Boston as the perfect way to start the trip.
“It’s great,” Aaron Judge said. “That’s who you want to start off against, the guys in first place, try to chip off a little bit of that lead.”
The Yankees went 4-1 against the Red Sox in the first half, outscoring them 27-7, but they haven’t seen each other since June 8, and much has changed for both teams. The Yankees led Boston by four games after a victory in Anaheim on June 12 raised their record to 38-23. The Red Sox fell to 33-27 when they lost to the Yankees on June 8, but they finished the first half with a 50-39 record.
“Man, it’s going to be very important,” Dellin Betances said. “We have to come out of the break and play them well. Obviously, they’re lining up their best pitchers and we’re lining up our pitchers as well. Hopefully we take three out of four. That would be huge.”
The Red Sox are throwing lefthanders Drew Pomeranz and Chris Sale on Friday and Saturday, respectively, then righthander Rick Porcello and lefthander David Price in Sunday’s split doubleheader. The Yankees, as of Thursday afternoon, had not yet announced their rotation.
“I think we have a great chance here to get [back] to the top of the division,” said Luis Severino, who is expected to start one of the games. “If we win the series that would be great for us.”
On June 12, the Yankees beat the Angels to reach a season-high 15 games over .500 (38-23) and take a four-game lead over the Red Sox in the American League East. But as they prepare to open the second half Friday night at Fenway Park, just a month later, the Yankees now trail the Red Sox by 3 1⁄2 games, thanks to a 7-18 free-fall into the All-Star break.
Here’s a snapshot of how these two teams performed over that month, and it’s easy to see why they swapped places in the division.
RED SOX (15-11)
Offense ................ .278 BA (4th) ... .791 OPS (9th)
Rotation .............. 11-9 ....... 3.81 ERA (6th)
Bullpen ............... 6-10 save chances .... 3.00 ERA (4th)
Offense ................. .253 BA (23rd) ... .772 OPS (13th)
Rotation ............... 6-9 ........ 4.88 ERA (18th)
Bullpen ................. 3-for-12 save chances .... 5.02 ERA (24th)