Friday night the Red Sox will look across the diamond and rather than a terribly weak inter-league foe, they’ll see the familiar pinstripes of the Bronx Bombers.
Yep, Red Sox-Yankees 2016 is on the verge of beginning.
These two franchises are a long way from the rivalry’s apex back in 2003 and 2004.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Curt Schilling are all former major league baseball players.
Pedro is in the hall of fame, Jeter and Rivera are inevitable inductees. Clemens, Ramirez and Schilling have all fallen short in voting to enter Cooperstown.
Only Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz remain to remind fans of both teams of the intensity of those two seasons.
Even though the rivalry is not at a peak time, the matchup will always provide for a little added fan interest and intensity. The players all know that, and perhaps most importantly, these two teams aren’t just rivals, they’re division rivals.
For two teams that are both fighting to make the playoffs, every head-to-head matchup is an opportunity to establish divisional power while weakening a rival.
In other words, even though the Red Sox have finished in last place the two seasons and the 8-12 Yankees currently occupy the cellar in the AL East, these games really are important.
The two teams will face one another 19 times this season. Only six of those games are prior to the All-Star break. The Yankees won’t return to Fenway until a three-game set in the second week of August (8/9-8/11.)
For the Red Sox winning or even better yet, sweeping the three game series would not only give them considerable momentum, but it would likely plunge their age-old rivals further into the division cellar.
The Yankees, have lost six of their last ten. They’ve got a fantastic bullpen, which will get even better once Aroldis Chapman returns from his 30-game suspension.
The starting pitching has been inconsistent. Youngster Luis Severino has looked overwhelmed, Michael Pineda can’t find any sort of consistency. New York’s team ERA is 4.42, the Red Sox sport a 4.43 earned run average.
The lineup has not helped, “Bronx Bombers?” So far this season they’ve been anything but.
New York is second to last in the American League in runs scored, they’re dead last in total bases, and rank in the bottom third in team batting average and team ops.
Among the Yankees starters that are struggling.
Shortstop Didi Gregorius slashing .238/.246/.365 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI.
Third baseman Chase Headley slashing .148/.277/.148 with 0 home runs and only 2 RBI.
Designated Hitter Alex Rodriguez slashing .190/.288/.379 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI.
Center Fielder Jacoby Ellsbury slashing .241/.268/.354 with 1 home run, 8 RBI and 5 stolen bases.
Their best hitter has been second baseman Starlin Castro. Castro got off to a torrid start, he’s cooled some since then but he’s still the team leader in batting average (.289) ops (.794) and RBI’s (12.)
The Red Sox are still among the worst pitching teams in the league, and while they’ve been better over the last week, they’ve been facing some very weak competition. What has separated the two teams so far this season has been a potent Red Sox offense that leads the AL in runs scored, total bases, on base percentage and stolen bases.
The Yankees do qualify as weak competition, but they’re also a potentially sleeping giant. Playing in Fenway Park, facing some starters who haven’t been lights-out in their own rights, and just the feeling that some of the Yankees veteran bats are simply due to get going could all add up to a very competitive three games series.
Friday night at 7:10 pm the Red Sox send Henry Owens (0-0, 8.10) to the mound, the Yankees will counter with Masahiro Tanaka ( 1-0, 2.92.)
Owens made 11 starts last year, his worst was a home outing against the Yankees. That was back on September 2,2015. Over 1.2 innings Owens allowed 6 hits, 7 earned runs, he walked a pair and gave up two home runs as well.
The Red Sox are counting on him to perform considerably better than that Friday night.