Alex Rodriguez heads to Fenway Park one home run away from tying Willie Mays for fourth place on MLB's all-time list. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Yankees series preview

May 01, 2015 - 8:25 am
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The Red Sox start a three-game series against the Yankees on Friday, New York's first visit of the season to Fenway Park. Boston took two of three from the Yankees in their previous meeting this season, with 6-5 and 8-4 wins and a 14-4 loss. New York currently holds the top spot in the AL East with a record of 13-9. Boston is tied for second, one game behind. Heading into the weekend series, the Red Sox pitching staff holds a major league-worst 5.04 ERA. It is 22nd with a 1.36 WHIP and 19th with a .259 batting average against. Through 22 games, Red Sox pitching already has given up 25 home runs. Joe Kelly is the only Boston starter with an ERA under 5.00, and he is hovering near that mark at 4.94. The Red Sox offense has been too inconsistent to make up for the underwhelming pitching. It is producing runs at a good rate (113, which is third in baseball), but its subpar batting average suggests that this trend will not last long. Boston batters are hitting .245, putting them 15th in baseball. The Sox offense, which was expected to be one of the elite units in the league, has an OPS of .711, which puts it behind all other teams in the AL East except the Rays. Just four Red Sox hitters have averages over .274 on the season: Brock Holt (.386), Pablo Sandoval (.312), Hanley Ramirez (.293) and Dustin Pedroia (.291). Over the last seven days, however, the offense has been heating up. Six hitters are batting over .300, six have OBPs of .370 or higher, and they have scored a total of 36 in six games. Hanley Ramirez is tied for first in the majors with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs. He also boasts a .659 slugging percentage, which is good for fourth in baseball. The Yankees are coming off four consecutive series victories, winning the majority of games against the Tigers, Mets and Rays (twice) since April 17. During that stretch, New York is 10-3 and has claimed the top spot in the division. New York has had a consistently productive pitching staff so far in 2015. The Yankees are third in the American League with an ERA of 3.23, fourth with a WHIP of 1.16, and fifth with a batting average against of .233. The Astros and Mariners are the only two teams in the AL that have allowed fewer home runs than New York. Of four pitchers who have started four games or more, all but CC Sabathia have ERAs under 5.00. Closer Andrew Miller is tied for fourth in the league with eight saves, and he has yet to blow a save opportunity. The Yankees have exceeded most expectations at the plate as well. They have scored 109 runs, with is good for sixth in the majors, and are eighth with a .741 OBP. They are tied for first in the AL with 29 home runs. However, similar to the Red Sox, the Yankees have struggled to get hits consistently, as they have a team batting average of just .240. Mark Teixeira is third in the league with eight home runs and fifth with 18 RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury is tied for third in the AL with eight steals. Alex Rodriguez is sitting on 659 career home runs, just one behind Willie Mays for fourth all time. This week, Masahiro Tanaka joined Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano as the third Yankees starting pitcher on the disabled list. Second baseman Jose Pirela and shortstop Brendan Ryan are also on the DL. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Friday:  Justin Masterson (2-0, 5.16) vs. CC Sabathia (0-4, 5.96) Saturday:  Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.15) Sunday: Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94) vs. Adam Warren (1-1, 4.35) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Pablo Sandoval is 9-for-20 in his last six games for an average of .450. In that stretch, he has two home runs, two doubles, seven RBIs, six runs, four walks and one strikeout. He has raised his OPS to .839 as a result of his recent hot streak. -- Hanley Ramirez hit five of his 10 home runs in his last six games and has tallied 10 RBIs in that time. He has slashed .360/.370/.960 during the power streak, raising those number on the season to .293/.341/.659. -- Dustin Pedroia has raised his season average to .291 by going 9-for-23 in his last six games. His on-base percentage in that time is .481. Pedroia carries a four-game hitting streak into the series against the Yankees. WHO'S HOT: YANKEES -- Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .429 with one home run, two RBIs, three runs and four stolen bases in his last five. The ex-Red Sox center fielder has raised his season average to .321 and has eight stolen bases on the year. He has five multi-hit games in his last 10. -- Mark Teixeira has three of his eight home runs and five of his 18 RBIs in his past five games, and has gone 6-for-23 in that stretch. -- Catcher Brian McCann is hitting 6-for-15 with a home run, two doubles, a walk and a strikeout in his last five. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Mike Napoli has yet to get his bat going in 2015. He is hitting just .162 and has three hits in his last 17 at-bats. He only has one home run and four RBIs on the season. If Napoli is able to find his swing, it would likely be a huge boost to the Red Sox offense. -- Wade Miley has gone more than five innings twice this year but only made it through 2 1/3 innings in his other two outings. His last start was an 18-7 loss to the Orioles. He allowed six earned runs on five hits and two walks without recording a strikeout. His ERA and WHIP have jumped to 8.62 and 1.79, respectively. -- After a stretch of offensive promise, Xander Bogaerts had started to slump at the plate. In his last six games, he is just 4-for-20. His season average is still fifth best among Boston hitters but has dropped to .274. WHO'S NOT: YANKEES -- CC Sabathia is the outlier in the Yankees rotation, as he has struggled to maintain consistency throughout his four starts. His last start against the Mets lasted five innings, and the lefty gave up seven runs on nine hits, including three home runs. -- Veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran has just two hits in his last 19 at-bats. His average has dropped to .162, and he has yet to hit a home run. -- Despite recording two home runs and 13 RBIs in his last five games, Alex Rodriguez is just 3-for-20 in that stretch. In the Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Rays on Wednesday, A-Rod went 0-for-6 with four strikeouts, and he grounded into a game-ending double play in the 13th inning. On the season Rodriguez, the team's designated hitter, is batting just .232.