Red Sox Yankees Four-Game Series Preview

Photo: Jim Davis/Boston Globe Staff

Make no mistake, this is the most important series of the season thus far for both teams.

The Boston Red Sox host their rivals the New York Yankees this weekend at Fenway with a 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East and are looking to create more separation in the four-game series.

Both teams enter play with significant injuries to prominent players. The Yankees will be without Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge, while the Red Sox have Chris Sale sidelined, who was scheduled to take the hill tonight.

New York’s biggest problem this season has been its inability to take advantage of teams below .500, especially in the weak AL East. Despite having a 12-6 record so far this season against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Bronx Bombers are 12-12 when matched up with the lowly Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles. If the Yankees want to catch up to the Red Sox in the division, they will need to do a better job of beating teams that they are supposed to dominate against.

With that being said, New York has had a slim upper hand so far this season against Boston with a 5-4 record with 10 more meetings to go.

Both squads have strengthened their respective rosters, as the Yankees bolstered their bullpen by picking up Zack Britton, while the Red Sox went shopping and acquired veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. They also each added to their starting rotations with familiar faces by trading with AL East foes in Toronto’s J.A. Happ and Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi.

These two teams will meet six times in the final two weeks of the season and the Red Sox would be wise to try everything to add to the division lead because their schedule is going to get challenging. After playing just two teams above .500 for the whole month of July—the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees—the Red Sox are slated to go up against some tough foes in the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, and Phillies. Boston needs to rack up as many wins as they can right now to add some cushion if it starts to falter a bit down the stretch.

What to watch for

  1. Can the Yankees retaliate from early season brawl?

The last time these two teams met up at Fenway, fists were flying between Joe Kelly and Tyler Austin, who has since been traded. The Yankees are a team that could use some a spark to ignite some intensity for a team that has been in a lull.

  1. How will the respective newcomers fare?

Happ was recently diagnosed with hand, foot and mouth disease so it is unclear at this point if he will take the hill for New York. Both he and Eovaldi impressed in their respective team debuts, as each picked up victories to earn favorable first impressions.

  1. Can David Price show up on the big stage?

The last time David Price pitched against the Yankees on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball on July 1, he simply got shelled. The Yankee hitters must have thought the southpaw was throwing a beach ball, as they clobbered five home runs against the former Cy Young winner.  The book on Price in his Red Sox career is that he has shriveled up in must-have starts. Fans will find out on Sunday if history repeats itself.

Scheduled starters

Thursday, 7:10 p.m. CC Sabathia (NY) vs Brian Johnson (BOS)

Friday, 7:10 p.m. Luis Severino (NY) vs Rick Porcello (BOS)

Saturday, 4:30 p.m. J.A. Happ (NY) vs Nathan Eovaldi (BOS)

Sunday, 8:05 p.m. Masahiro Tanaka (NY) vs David Price (BOS)

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