Looks as if they’ll have to play things out in the AL East after all.
After Yankees-Red Sox I, 2018 edition, the Yankees departed Boston on April 12 in a state of uncertainty.
They had been outscored 27-14 in losing two of three games and dropped to 6-7, 4 ½ games behind the Red Sox. That gap grew to 7 ½ games on April 20 as the Red Sox moved to 17-2, the best start in franchise history. Even though it was absurdly early to make any sort of declaration, there were rumblings of a Red Sox runaway in the division.
Since? Boston has gone 8-7 and brings a 25-9 record into a three-game series against the Yankees that begins Tuesday night at the Stadium. The Yankees have reeled off 15 wins in their last 16 games to move to 24-10, a game behind. Those are the best two records in the major leagues.
“We were 7 ½ games out at some point,” general manager Brian Cashman told Newsday by phone Monday morning. “What was their start, 17 and 2? That’s pretty spectacular. Period. That creates a lot of distance between you and the field, so that’s a historic start in its own right and certainly one I’m glad we’ve been able to cut into.”
Ace righthander Luis Severino (5-1, 2.11 ERA), coming off his first career shutout last Wednesday in Houston, will get the ball in the first game, opposed by Boston lefty Drew Pomeranz (1-1, 6.14). Severino allowed five runs in five innings in a 14-1 loss to Boston on April 10, but in four subsequent starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.24 ERA and 0.66 WHIP.
Masahiro Tanaka (4-2, 4.39) will face David Price (2-4, 5.11) and CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.39) will oppose Rick Porcello (5-0, 2.14) in the second and third games of the series.
Fans of both clubs, which have World-Series-or-bust expectations for the season, and media are contributing to plenty of hype for this early May series, but it’s a different perspective around the Yankees.
“Look, Red Sox-Yankees is always big and obviously they’re a great team, so we understand they’ll be a lot of excitement around it,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “But we’ll also treat it like, ‘We get Pomeranz the first night, what’s our approach, what’s our game plan? [Let’s] go make him earn it.’ I’m confident our guys will come out and do that.”
The previous series included two bench-clearing incidents April 11, the more dramatic of which began when Tyler Austin charged the mound after getting hit by Boston’s Joe Kelly. In the fracas, Yankees third-base coach Phil Nevin was ejected after yelling at Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who Nevin said made an “unprofessional” dismissive gesture at him.
Austin was suspended five games (cut to four games after appeal) and Kelly was suspended six games (his appeal was denied).
“I don’t want to get into all that,” Austin said of potentially facing Kelly again. “But I think we’re all excited to play Boston.”
Austin, like his manager and teammates, said the Red Sox just happen to be next on the schedule. The goal is to continue the caliber of play from the last two-plus weeks.
“We’re coming out to compete and to win ballgames. Whether it’s Boston or whoever it is, we’re just coming out to try and win ballgames,” Austin said. “It’s exciting [to battle for first place], but we’re not going to take them any different than we have anybody else.”
The respective offenses jump off the page. The Yankees came into Monday ranked first in Major League Baseball in runs (197), tied for second in OBP (.335), tied for second in homers (48), third in slugging percentage (.445) and third in OPS (.780). The Red Sox are first in slugging percentage (.460) and OPS (.792), second in runs (192), tied for fifth in homers (46) and fifth in OBP (.332). The Yankees ranked fifth in MLB with a 3.43 ERA; Boston was sixth (3.45).
“We’ll enjoy this day off [Monday] after 18 in a row and then come ready,” Dellin Betances said. “Obviously, Boston’s been playing great ball to start the season, so it’ll be a fun series. Great atmosphere. I can’t wait.”
With Steven Marcus
The Red Sox and Yankees feature two of the best offenses in baseball. Some of their numbers and their MLB rank in parentheses:
YANKEES RED SOX
197 (1) RUNS192 (2)
48 (T2) HOME RUNS 46 (T5)
.335 (T2) OBP.332 (5)
.445 (3)SLG.460 (1)
.780 (3) OPS.792 (1)