As with any four-game series with the New York Yankees, this is a big one.
But with the All Star break directly over the horizon and a dismal road trip for the bats (2-5 record, .200 Team BA, 49 Ks) in the rear view mirror, the Red Sox can ill afford a bad series against their greatest foe, only to sit on that misery for an extra three days.
If the Red Sox were to be swept at Fenway for the third time this season, (Baltimore Orioles: May 4-6, Washington Nationals: June 8-10) they would enter the All Star break a staggering 11.5 games behind the New York Yankees, which would put Red Sox nation in its most panicked state since the start of the season.
A Tale of Two Bases
Second base is a key position for this series, as Dustin Pedroia’s jammed thumb lands him on the 15-day DL just before this crucial series. Conversely Robinson Cano is churning out his best baseball of the season, hitting .444 over an 11-game hitting streak (20/45, five HR, 15 RBI).
The one positive thing going for the Red Sox this weekend is an abundance of lefties (Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront and Jon Lester) who could temper the red hot Cano:
.vs RHP: (.362 / 16 HR / 20 2B / 36 RBI)
.vs LHP: (.239 / four HR / three 2B / 14 RBI)
But it’s a Friday matchup against Josh Beckett that could serve as further confidence for the slugging second baseman, as Cano has enjoyed a great deal of success against Beckett in his career.
Cano vs. Beckett (Career): (.324, 23/71, three HR, 13 RBI)
Will Beckett be able to keep Cano in check? Or will Cano bash Beckett and ride this offensive wave into the All Star break, despite the lefties in his way?
The Lone Righty
The Red Sox send Josh Beckett to the hill on Friday to tackle a Yankee lineup that has not had nearly as much trouble putting together runs as the Red Sox have. The Yankees have scored 13 more runs than the Red Sox over the past eight games though they have also allowed 17 more runs.
Looking to stifle a potent Yankees offense, it’s encouraging that Beckett’s best stuff by far has come at home this season:
Home—(seven games, 3.69 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3 HR)
Away—(six games, 4.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 6 HR)
Will Beckett be able to keep this Yankees lineup in check and allow his bats to establish themselves? Or will the Yankees make a statement early and put immediate pressure on the already reeling Red Sox?
We’re (Barely) Going Streaking!
The woefully under-performing bat of Adrian Gonzalez has been building momentum behind a 15-game hitting streak. However it’s going to need to continue to catch fire during this home stand and in a big way.
While Gonzalez has put together this 15-game hitting streak (.349, 22/63, two 2Bs, eight RBI, one HR) it has not been translating into any offense over the past seven games (.333, 10/30, 10 Singles, one RBI, zero BB).
Gonzalez will hope that a return to the friendly confines of Fenway Park will translate into some offensive output, and his home and away split look to indicate that’s a distinct possibility as Gonzalez has double the extra base hits at home this season (four HR, 16 2B) vs. on the road (two HR, eight 2B).
If the Yankees decide to make use of their latest bullpen acquisition, Chad Qualls, it will no doubt have Adrian Gonzalez salivating. He has downright dominated the righty in his career (5/10, two HR, three RBI). So look for the Yankees to stay away from Qualls in the late innings if it means he’ll be seeing any of Gonzalez.
Will Gonzalez finally step up to the sort of offensive output that he’s capable of? Or is David Ortiz going to have to continue to carry this lineup by himself?
This promises to be a series filled with interesting matchups, a ton of questions and just as much intrigue. And as we’ve come to expect from Yankees/Red Sox matchups in the past, the only thing you can bank on is that these games will be as long as they are interesting.