It’s the middle of September, and the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in a series that has a lot more at stake than anyone would have thought one month ago. 

For the Red Sox, this series gives them a chance to put a serious dent in their archrival’s postseason hopes. It also affords them the opportunity to move a few steps closer to clinching the American League East, with their magic number at eight.

The Yankees have found a way to hang around in the Wild Card race despite a patchwork roster for most of the year. They have won 21 of their last 32 games to move within two games of Tampa Bay in the loss column. It’s a remarkable run for a team most of us left dead and buried in the middle of August. 

In anticipation of this highly-charged series, here is a tale of the tape for the Yankees and Red Sox from Boston this weekend. 


The History

Even with all of the problems the Yankees have had, they still manage to play the Red Sox tough every time. Of the 16 games already played, eight of them have been decided by three runs or less. 

Of course, a lot of the games the Red Sox have won against their rivals have been by blowout. They have outscored the Yankees 98-78 this year, their best run differential against any team in the American League East. 


Pitching Matchups

The Yankees have the right man on the mound to start fast in this series. Kuroda has been, by far, their best pitcher in 2013 and a legitimate Cy Young candidate (though he shouldn’t win or finish in the top three). 

Kuroda has already made four starts against Boston in 2013, posting a 4.26 ERA with 33 hits allowed and a 22-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings are the highest against any team in the AL East. 

Lackey has been surprisingly good this season, but the Yankees have been one of the few teams to give him fits. He has made three starts with a 5.79 ERA, 24 hits allowed and a 14-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18.2 innings. 

Both pitchers have fallen off in the second half. Lackey’s in his first season after Tommy John surgery, so his 4.52 ERA after the All-Star break isn’t that surprising. Kuroda has been more hittable with 69 hits allowed, including six home runs, and a 3.60 ERA in 65 innings. 

On Saturday and Sunday, the Red Sox have, to my mind, a decided advantage on the mound. CC Sabathia has been a shell of his former self because his fastball velocity is a career-low 91.0 mph (h/t

Jon Lester has rebounded from a miserable June where he posted a 7.62 ERA and allowed eight home runs in 28.1 innings in a strong way. His ERA has decreased month to month since bottoming out, going from 3.13 in July to 2.97 in August to 2.40 in two September starts. 

The prime-time finale on Sunday might be the most evenly-matched game, but that is more a function of where Clay Buchholz is in recovering from the injury that kept him out for three months than a strong belief I have in Ivan Nova. 

That isn’t to say Nova hasn’t impressed me this season with a 3.17 ERA. He still gives up too many baserunners (165 in 119.1 innings) for me to expect him to step up big in a key spot for the Yankees, especially against this powerful Red Sox lineup. 


Keys to the Series

Get Ichiro On Base

The loss of Brett Gardner to an oblique injury Thursday was devastating to the Yankees offense. He is the table setter with speed to create havoc on the bases, one of the few on the roster capable of doing that. 

With Gardner gone, Ichiro seems the most-likely candidate to move into the leadoff spot, despite his .302 on-base percentage, because Joe Girardi loves using the pure speed guys at the top of the order.

After a disastrous start to the season, the Yankees have found some semblance of an offense in the second half thanks to the acquisition of Alfonso Soriano (.531 slugging percentage, 15 home runs in 179 at-bats), return of Alex Rodriguez (.294/.391/.504 in 33 games) and continued awesomeness of Robinson Cano (.309/.384/.515). 

But this team needs that table setter at the top to be successful. The Yankees are primarily a station-to-station team when they get men on, so it is incumbent that someone like Ichiro is able to get on base so he can go first to third or second to home on a single to left field. 


Battle of the Bullpens

Given the tortoise-like pace that these games take because both lineups are incredibly patient, the bullpens are going to play a critical role in the outcome of the series. 

Boston’s ‘pen looked like it was on the verge of becoming a problem because Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller were lost for the season. The latter two went down within a week of each other. 

But in one of the best moves of the season, Koji Uehara, who the Red Sox signed at a bargain of $4 million, turned into Mariano Rivera. He’s retired the last 33 hitters he has faced, owns a 1.08 ERA, allowed 29 hits and sports a 93-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66.2 innings. 

Other guys like Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman have provided invaluable relief (pardon the pun) out of the bullpen. Suddenly what once looked like it would turn into an area of weakness is now of the Red Sox’s greatest strengths. 

On the flip side, the Yankees aren’t going to be able to match Boston’s depth. They have Mariano Rivera and David Robertson as the two stalwarts, but not a whole lot else to support them. 

Shawn Kelley is solid and misses bats (69 in 52.1 innings). He’s also allowed 66 baserunners. The less said about Joba Chamberlain the better. Boone Logan is their No. 3 reliever but is essentially a lefty specialist. 

Even Rivera has stumbled a bit in the second half with four home runs allowed in 24.1 innings. I’m hardly concerned about him, but it is important to remember that he is 43 years old near the end of a long season. 

Given all that, if these games come down to the bullpens, which we know at least one of them will, the Red Sox have a decided advantage. 


Final Predictions

As you can probably tell from everything before this, I love the Red Sox in this series. Aside from the fact that I think they are just a better team on paper, everything but Friday’s pitching matchup is in their favor. 

Boston is one of the best home teams in baseball, while the Yankees have had their issues on the road. Lester’s turnaround when it looked like he was reverting back to his 2012 form has been the punch in the arm this pitching staff needed, especially with Buchholz on the shelf for so long. 

The Red Sox have a much deeper and powerful lineup than the Yankees, capable of crushing mistakes and quality pitches. Losing Gardner, both offensively and defensively, is going to hamper the Yankees in this series a lot more than some might realize. 

I always hesitate to call a sweep for any team, especially in the regular season, because things are usually set up for a quality team to win at least one game. I will say the Yankees win Friday with Boston dominating the weekend games. 


All stats courtesy of, unless otherwise noted. If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments. 

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