7:10 PM EST, MLB Network – Line: Yankees -122, Over/Under: 11
Baseball’s most storied rivalry is renewed once again, as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox meet for the first installment of a crucial Four-Game Series from Fenway Park. For the Yankees (66-35, 1st in AL East), this Series represents an opportunity to formally wrap up the American League East, for after Wednesday’s 9-7 victory over the Minnesota Twins, find themselves a whopping Eleven Games ahead of tonight’s opponent in the Standings. 9-4 since the All-Star Break, and 25-8 since the middle of June, New York has powered their way to the top of the American League, thanks in large part to a prolific Offense that continues to batter opposing Pitchers, despite a number of key contributors hitting the Disabled List with various maladies. Aaron Boone’s charges been nothing short of productive; New York ranks Second in the American League in Runs Scored (578) and Home Runs (170), Third in On-Base Percentage (.344), Slugging Percentage (.470), and OPS (.814). Their teammates in the Pitching Staff have been a different story though, with Masahiro Tanaka (7-5, 4.00 ERA, 20 GS, 117.0 IP, 110 H, 52 ER, 19 HR, 26 BB, 98 K, 1.162 WHIP), who without the presence of their ace, Luis Severino (who has missed the entire season due to inflammation in his Right Rotator Cuff along with a Grade 2 Lateral Strain), has served as their top-line Starter this season. Granted, New York’s Rotation has been more solid than spectacular, with each of their members sporting an ERA of 4.00 or higher, though given the volume of Run Support that they’ve received over the past month and some change, it’s not like they’ve had to be anything close to dominant. The 30-Year Old Japanese International never quite lived up to the hype when came to the Major Leagues back in 2014, statistically reverting a mean over the past four years; Tanaka’s Strikeout/Walk Ratio has virtually decreased with each passing season, now standing at a career-low 3.77. However, as we’ve stated already, it’s not like he needs to be the flame-throwing ace he was six years ago, not when your teammates are averaging an impressive 8.9 Runs per Game in your last Seven Starts. In that period of time, Tanaka has gone 4-0 despite an ERA of 5.09 over the course of 40.2 Innings, registering Thirty-One Strikeouts in comparison to Seven Walks, though has been tagged for Eight Home Runs. Oh, and the Yankees managed to come away victorious in each of those seven outings. When we last saw him, he again benefitted from the luxury of his side scoring Eleven Runs, relieving any stress on the mound where he allowed Five Earned Runs on Seven Hits, with Three Strikeouts and One Walk. The two-time All-Star has experienced his ups and downs against the Red Sox, going 8-4 in Nineteen Career Starts, sporting an ERA of 4.82 and a WHIP of 1.209. In their only encounter this season, he was merely another pitching casualty in a 30-Run Shootout between the eternal rivals across the pond in London, being chased off the mound after relinquishing Six Earned Runs on Four Hits in just 2/3 of an Inning.
Meanwhile, time is running out for the Red Sox (56-46, 3rd in AL East) to awaken from the season-long hangover that they’ve been mired in after collecting the franchise’s ninth World Series Championship. With the Yankees’ sizable lead in the Division seeming to grow larger with each passing day, the only logical route to a return to the Playoffs is the Wild Card, which after Wednesday’s 2-3 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays has left them Two Games out of the final Postseason Birth. Now is the time for Boston to make a stand, particularly given how hot they’ve been from the Plate coming into this matchup in which they’ll no doubt need to score plenty of Runs. Since the All-Star Break, Alex Cora’s charges have averaged a healthy 5.9 Runs per Game, and over the last Seven Games they’ve turned the production up a notch, scoring 6.3 Runs per Contest. Of course, like their rivals in the Big Apple, this team’s struggles lie in the Pitching Staff, which makes them an ideal target to make a Trade before the July 31st Deadline. In a perfect world, they’ll be able to come away with not only a reliable Starter, but someone to assume the Closer’s role which has vexed them throughout the campaign. Taking the mound tonight for the Red Sox is Rick Porcello (8-7, 5.61 ERA, 20 GS, 110.2 IP, 130 H, 69 ER, 18 HR, 32 BB, 87 K, 1.464 WHIP), who like the rest of the Starting Rotation, hasn’t enjoyed what be described as a strong showing in 2019. After all, as a Staff Boston ranks in the middle of the league in Team ERA (4.67, 7th) and Walks (351, 10th), along with a disappointing Eleventh in Saves (21). It doesn’t take an expert to see that this group needs to be addressed by the Trade Deadline, with Management likely looking for both a Starter to slot into the back of the Rotation, and more importantly a reliable arm in the Bullpen. Porcello, who is just three years removed from winning Twenty-Two Games and earning a Cy Young, has worn the visage of damaged goods in 2019, logging a career-worst ERA of 5.61, a WHIP of 1.464, and a Strikeout/Walk Ratio of just 2.72. Despite that, the 30-Year Old Righthander has managed to right the ship of late, going undefeated in his last Three Starts, even though he’s worn a bloated ERA of 8.64 during that stretch. When we last saw him, Porcello was a proverbial mixed bag against the Orioles, getting tagged for Six Runs on Eleven Hits, including a pair of Home Runs, over the duration of just Five Innings, but was let off the hook thanks to a staggering Seventeen Runs scored by his club. In fact, that’s becoming something of a habit for him, as Cora’s charges have scored a ridiculous Thirty-Seven Runs in his last Three Starts. In all honesty, what Pitcher can’t take advantage of that kind of Run Support. Like his counterpart tonight, the veteran also partook in that aforementioned 30-Run Extravaganza back on June 29th, though his stay on the mound was actually shorter; Porcello lasted just 1/3 of an Inning, giving up Six Earned Runs on Five Hits in the process. As you can imagine, he hasn’t had the most success against the Bronx Bombers, going 10-9 against them with a 3.68 ERA and 1.200 WHIP in Twenty-Four Career Starts.