Jacoby Ellsbury will be in the lineup when the Yankees travel to Fenway Park this weekend. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Yankees series preview

July 10, 2015 - 4:57 am
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The surging Red Sox are still in the basement of the AL East, but with the division's overall mediocrity, it's a short trip up the stairs. Going into their final series before the All-Star break, the Sox have a chance to take those steps two at a time as they welcome the Yankees to Fenway Park for a three-game weekend set. New York is tops in the division right now, 2 1/2 games up on the second-place Orioles and 5 1/2 ahead of the Red Sox. If Boston takes advantage of this opportunity to gain ground, it could pay the team dividends as it pulls back closer into the race. The Sox are 2-4 against their rivals so far this season and were swept in the first three days of May. They did win their other series, however. It was their second of the year back on April 10, meaning the Sox haven't earned a victory over the Yankees since April 11. With an 8-2 record in the Sox' last 10 games, though, there's a certain energy within the squad that will be put to the test over the weekend. "I remember we were playing pretty tough baseball, but lately we've been playing really good," Xander Bogaerts said on Wednesday. "Definitely the momentum, the vibe in the clubhouse and everything has changed. It all comes with winning, you know?" The Yankees don't necessarily have the same momentum, but they've maintained a hold on that top spot in the division for 49 games of 85 so far this season, including a current six-game streak in first. So far in July, the Yankees have a team batting average in the bottom third of the majors at .229, but their .328 team on-base percentage is eighth overall this month, walking a league-leading 33 times in their last seven games. However, the Red Sox have the upper hand in terms of offense in that span, scoring 6.14 runs per game to the Yankees' four per. Recently activated from the disabled list, former Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew Miller both made their returns to the lineup on Wednesday. The center fielder was 1-for-4 while Miller reverted back to his role as closer and picked up the save in the Yankees' 5-4 win over the A's. The two had been huge for New York so far this season, and having them back bolsters the depth chart. "Obviously it's a big lift to get two players like that back," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "These are two impact players on your team. It's great to have them back, and we need them to be productive. On the pitching end of things, the Yanks have held opponents to a top-10 .226 batting average this month and are allowing just 3.14 earned runs per game. On the year, though, New York starters have posted a .275 opposing team batting average, fourth worst in the majors, and have allowed the 11th-most earned runs. Like most of the division, different facets of the Yankees' game fluctuate as the year goes on, and flaws are highlighted depending on the night. Many of New York's stats fall in the middle of the league like the pitching staff's total hits allowed, which ranks 13th at 744 total. But there are still areas in which the Yankees excel, as their 111 home runs on the year is good for third in the league, their 393 runs is second best and both their on-base percentage (.324) and slugging percentage (.423) are fifth best overall. Defense is an area of concern, though. Their .981 fielding percentage is fifth worst, and the Yankees have committed the fifth-most errors in the bigs with 59. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Friday: Clay Buchholz (7-6, 3.27 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (8-5, 3.79 ERA) Saturday: Eduardo Rodriguez (4-2, 3.69 ERA) vs. Ivan Nova (1-2, 2.65 ERA) Sunday: Wade Miley (8-7, 4.50 ERA) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (8-2, 4.45 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Xander Bogaerts is batting .462 over his last six games, collecting eight RBIs in that time. With two walks as well, the shortstop has posted an on-base percentage of .500 along with two doubles and a .538 slugging percentage. In Tuesday's 4-3 win over the Marlins, Bogaerts recorded the game-winning hit, a three-run single in a seventh-inning rally. -- All-Star Brock Holt is enjoying a good stretch of games, slashing .333/.379/.333 with an RBI and two walks in his last six. He's scored three runs and has an eight-game hitting streak going. -- Koji Uehara has held opponents hitless through each of his last six innings of work and hasn't allowed an earned run since June 21 nine appearances ago. He's lowered his opponent batting average to .186 and now has a WHIP of 0.88 with 35 strikeouts in 32 total innings this year. WHO'S HOT: YANKEES -- Named as a sub for Alex Gordon in the All-Star Game after the Royals left fielder strained his groin Wednesday, Brett Gardner is leading the way for New York of late. He's slashing .286/.464/.429 in his last six games with a home run, an RBI, seven walks and six strikeouts. -- Relief arm Justin Wilson has a 1.59 ERA over his last 5 2/3 innings and hasn't allowed a run or hit in each of his four most recent appearances, totaling 3 1/3 frames with five strikeouts. -- Mark Teixeira has been bringing his bat to the lineup, going 6-for-23 at the plate over his past six contests with three home runs, a double and eight RBIs. The first baseman has walked three times and carries a 1.029 OPS in that span. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Since being called back up from Pawtucket, Matt Barnes has allowed five earned runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings. In 3 2/3 innings so far in July, the righty has a 7.36 ERA and opponents are slashing .412/.444/.647 against him with a home run, a double and five strikeouts. -- In his last 24 at-bats, Hanley Ramirez has four hits for a .167 average, though three of them have been home runs to help him notch five RBIs. He's also struck out seven times and garnered a .231 on-base percentage with two walks in that time. -- Craig Breslow, after recording 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief over three appearances, has allowed at least one earned run in each of his past two outings. On July 2, he surrendered two home runs in Toronto and conceded three hits in one inning. Then on Friday, Breslow managed 1 1/3 innings with just one hit surrendered, but it was a solo shot. WHO'S NOT: YANKEES -- Chris Young has just one hit in his last 18 at-bats, adding three walks and four strikeouts in that time for a slash line of .056/.227/.056. -- Dellin Betances has given up a home run in two of his last three trips to the hill, allowing three earned runs over the course of four innings. His most recent appearance on Wednesday was an inning-long outing that saw him hold the A's hitless and scoreless, though. -- Garrett Jones is slashing .222/.263/.333 in his last 18 at-bats, notching two doubles and an RBI along with six strikeouts and a walk.

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