Red Sox-Yankees series preview

April 10, 2014 - 10:18 am

The Red Sox will head to New York on the heels of a dramatic victory on Wednesday night, taking on the Yankees and former center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury in a weekend four-game set.

After being swept in their first Fenway series of 2014, the Red Sox were looking for some redemption against the Rangers, and thanks to some solid pitching and dramatics from David Ortiz, they took the rubber game of the set to win their second series of the season.

"It was a big one for our team. Getting swept, coming back in we needed to bounce back and win the series," said starter Jake Peavy, who delivered 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. "So I knew coming in that it was a big start, and we needed to find a way to scratch and claw and get a win out of this. Especially going to New york, it'€™s always a fun and intense rivalry, and it'€™s nice to go in there with a little momentum."

The Red Sox, like much of the rest of the AL East, have stumbled out of the gate a little bit, going 4-5 over their first three series. The big hit, which came from none other than Ortiz on Wednesday, has been elusive for the Red Sox, who have grounded into 17 double plays over just nine games, which stands as the most in the majors (four more than the team with the second most).

After going 85-77 in 2013 and missing the postseason for just the second time in 19 years, the Yankees sought to rebuild their roster and restore their dominance in the AL East during the offseason, which resulted in all kinds of turnover during the winter. The Yankees lost star second baseman Robinson Cano, starting pitcher Phil Hughes and outfielder Curtis Granderson to free agency, saw legendary closer Mariano Rivera and longtime starter Andy Pettitte retire, and had to fill the void left by Alex Rodriguez'€™s 162-game suspension.

They responded by dishing out $555 million in salaries to the likes of Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brendan Ryan, Brian Roberts, Matt Thornton, Kelly Johnson, Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, and of course, Ellsbury. They also signed outfielder Brett Gardner to a four-year extension, as well as re-signing starter Hiroki Kuroda and face of the franchise, Derek Jeter, who announced that 2014 would be his final season.

But the Yankees already are experiencing some of the same problems that plagued them in 2013. First baseman Mark Teixeira hit the disabled list with a hamstring strain, and new closer David Robertson joined him Monday after suffering a groin strain. The injuries weaken the two biggest question marks for the Yankees: their infield and their bullpen. They'll be forced to use a combination of relievers to fill the void left by Robertson, and the infield will be spread thinner to compensate for Texeira's absence.

Like the Red Sox, the Yankees have been lackluster out of the gate, going 4-5 and slipping to the bottom of the AL East standings. But then again, every team in the AL East had either a 4-5  or 5-4 record at the start of play on Thursday. An interesting tidbit from the Yankees' first few games: they were without a home run through their first six games and 184 at-bats, which stands as their third-longest longball drought to start the season in team history. The Red Sox hope to prolong the power outage.

Here are the pitching matchups for the four-game set.

Thursday: Clay Buchholz (0-0, 12.46) vs. Michael Pineda (0-1, 1.50)

Friday: Jon Lester (0-2, 2.51) vs. CC Sabathia (1-1, 7.50)

Saturday: John Lackey (2-0, 1.38) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.92)

Sunday: Felix Doubront (1-1, 9.00) vs. Ivan Nova (1-1, 8.68)


-- With Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging the bat the way he has been lately, it'€™s going to be tough to keep him out of the lineup. The outfielder had an excellent series against the Rangers, going 5-for-8 and scoring four runs. He went hitless on Wednesday night but managed to draw his first three walks of the year in his three plate appearances. Bradley has been playing stellar outfield defense as well, splitting time between center and right.

-- Ortiz may not be getting on base a ton lately, but he'€™s been coming up with the big hit when the Red Sox need it. He came through in the clutch yet again on Wednesday night, delivering the game-winning hit, a three-run home run, in the bottom of the eighth inning, his second home run of 2014. Ortiz has driven in five runs over the last two games, crushing three extra-base hits in nine plate appearances.

- A.J. Pierzynski'€™s bat has started to come to life. The catcher reached base in seven of his nine plate appearances against the Rangers, which included two three-hit showings and a hit in his pinch-hitting appearance Wednesday night. Pierzynski played a large part in three of Boston's five runs on Monday night, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored. The veteran has boosted his batting average to .360 on the season, though his OBP and slugging percentage remain at .360 as well.


-- Despite all of the offseason signings of big-name players, the most productive Yankee so far this season has been Yangervis Solarte, a 26-year-old who is getting his first taste of the big leagues after playing 672 minor league games. Solarte is off to a scorching start, hitting .429/.489/.571, and is tied for the league lead in doubles with six. The infielder, who beat out Eduardo Nunez for a spot on the roster out of spring training, leads the club in RBIs, knocking in seven runs.

-- Ellsbury seems to be taking well to his new team. He'€™s appeared in all nine games, putting up multi-hit performances in four of those (including three three-hit games), and is hitting .364 with a .871 OPS in 36 plate appearances. The speedy center fielder has swiped four bases in five chances, and has three extra base hits to his credit.

-- Gardner is making his mark in a somewhat crowded outfield, coming into Thursday with a seven-game hitting streak. Gardner has hit .350 over the last 20 at-bats with a double and the drought-breaking home run back on April 6.


-- It was an ugly outing for Doubront on Tuesday night. The lefty lasted just 2 2 / 3 innings and was tagged for five runs on six hits against the Rangers. Neither of Doubront'€™s first two starts have been particularly encouraging; his first appearance back on April 3 in Baltimore was mediocre, allowing three runs on six hits to the Orioles. He comes into the series with an ugly 9.00 ERA through eight innings.

-- Finding a new leadoff hitter to replace Ellsbury isn't an easy task for the Red Sox so far. Jonny Gomes is the most recent candidate at the top of the order, but he hasn't exactly been swinging a hot bat. Gomes is 4-for-23 on the young season with just one extra base hit. One thing he does have going for him is his patience, though. Gomes has drawn four walks in 28 plate appearances, with three of those free passes coming out of the leadoff spot.

-- Daniel Nava has looked a little lost at the plate lately. The outfielder, who has shown the ability to be an on-base machine at times, struggled on Wednesday night, striking out three times in three plate appearances (all looking). Nava has yet to have a multi-hit game, and just drew his first walk of the season on Monday against the Rangers. He'€™s hitting .125 in eight games.


-- One of the Yankees'€™ biggest signings this offseason, McCann, has gotten off to a slow start. The former Braves catcher went hitless through 12 at-bats in the Yankees' last series against the Orioles, and is batting just .152 through his first eight games in pinstripes.

-- Longtime Oriole Roberts has the tall task of replacing Cano at second base, and while he has (somewhat surprisingly) stayed healthy and has appeared in all nine games for the Yankees, the 35-year-old hasn't been producing at the plate. Roberts is just 4-for-25, but he'€™s been finding other ways to get on base, drawing a team-leading seven walks.

-- After an uncharacteristically rough 2013, Sabathia looked like he was back to his old self in spring training, posting a 1.29 ERA in five starts. That success hasn't carried over into the regular season so far, though. Sabathia was roughed up in his first start, giving up six runs on eight hits to the Astros on Opening Day. His second start went smoother, but he's still coming into the series with a 7.50 ERA through 12 innings. The silver lining might be that Sabathia is still averaging a strikeout per inning and has only walked one batter.