RED SOX (29-27) AT YANKEES (36-19)
7:05 p.m. ET; YES, MLBN, NESN, MLB.TV
When they last convened at Yankee Stadium, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees possessed losing records and were off to sluggish starts.
Both teams own winning records, but the Yankees are rolling and they can start widening their lead over the Red Sox in the AL East even further Thursday night when the longtime rivals open a four-game series at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees won both meetings last month, roughing up Chris Sale in an 8-0 win on April 16 and rallying late for a 5-3 victory the following night. The Yankees entered that series with nine losses in their first 15 games but getting two wins over the Red Sox triggered a hot streak that has ascended New York into first place.
Since their 6-9 start, the Yankees are 30-10 in their last 40 games and hold a 7 1/2-game lead over third-place Boston. The Yankees won their eighth straight series when they hit four homers in a 7-0 win over the San Diego Padres Wednesday afternoon.
New York heads into Thursday 13-3 in its last 16 games and has scored at least five runs in 10 its last 11 games after DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Gleyber Torres homered Wednesday.
The Yankees have held first place since May 19 and even if they are not constantly checking the standings, they are aware of what can be achieved this weekend.
“Obviously this is a big series for us to help our lead in first place and we’re going to do whatever we can,” Voit said. “It’s the best rivalry in baseball. So we’re so excited. We haven’t seen these guys in a while. So it’s going to be a lot of fun this weekend.”
Last season, Boston won the division by eight games en route to its fourth championship since the start of the 2004 season but is off to a slow start. The Red Sox left New York with a 6-13 record and are 23-14 since.
Boston reached the .500 mark on May 8, is 10-8 since then and enters Thursday at 29-27.
The Red Sox are hoping to avoid a third straight loss after taking a 14-9 defeat to the Cleveland Indians Wednesday, a night after blowing a late lead in a 7-5 setback.
“We need to play better,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The last 12 innings, it hasn’t been good. We haven’t pitched well. We need to be better.”
Boston displayed plenty of offense Wednesday, getting homers from Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr.
After getting short outings from starters Ryan Weber and David Price (due to a lengthy rain delay Tuesday), the Red Sox are hoping Sale can continue some recent improvement.
Although Sale heads into Thursday with a 1-6 record and a 4.19 ERA, he is pitching better of late. Sale is 1-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last five starts and owns a 2.44 ERA in seven starts since allowing four runs on seven hits in five innings against the Yankees in a performance he described as “embarrassing.”
Sale last pitched on Friday in Houston when he allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss. Sale threw 89 pitches Friday after throwing at least 100 pitches in his previous five starts.
The left-hander is 6-5 with a 1.87 ERA in 18 career regular-season appearances (15 starts) against the Yankees. He also is 2-3 with a 2.36 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) at Yankee Stadium.
New York will open the series with J.A. Happ, who like Sale is pitching better of late. Happ is 4-3 with a 5.09 ERA and 3-0 with a 5.40 ERA in his last four starts.
Happ last pitched Saturday in Kansas City when he carried a shutout into the sixth and allowed three runs, four hits and struck out 10 in six innings.
The left-hander is 8-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 22 regular-season appearances (21 starts) against the Red Sox.
–Field Level Media