This weekend’s series between the Yankees and Red Sox—the two best teams in the American League—does not have a whole lot of playoff implications but should have great meaning to both teams; especially the Yankees who are 1-8 against Boston this season. Here are a few things to look for this weekend at Fenway.
Ellsbury and Pedroia.
Combined the Red Sox top two hitters have scored 155 runs (26% of their teams’ runs scored) while putting themselves in the AL MVP race. Ellsbury is batting .340/.374/.620 over the past month while Pedroia won AL Player of the Month by going .433/.467/.722. (To put that in perspective, Jose Bautista is leading the league in slugging this season with a .658 average.) They are what drive the Red Sox offense and have allowed Adrian Gonzalez to drive in a league leading 90 runs. To stop Boston you have to stop Ellsbury and Pedroia.
Who will step up?
The Yankees pitching staff has really struggled against Boston this season. Granted, the Red Sox have the best offense in Baseball, but in 9 games the Yankees staff ERA is 6.27 against Boston— nearly 3 runs higher than their team ERA in 2011 and 1.62 runs higher than their next highest opponent (Detroit).
The question remains: Can anybody past Sabathia pitch well enough against good teams to allow the Yankees offense to win games? It should be noted, Sabathia is 0-3 with a 6.16 ERA in 19 IP this season vs. BOS. CC has been tremendous this season, especially in July when he was named the AL Pitcher of the Month. But his inability to beat Boston in 3 starts is unacceptable, and on Saturday he will need to continue his July dominance to finally beat the Red Sox.
CC is not the problem however. On Friday Colon will take the mound at Fenway and Garcia will pitch the finale on Sunday. As good as they have been this season, they still have a lot to prove. Colon’s stuff translates to playoff baseball but his durability is still in question. Garcia on the other hand seems to be playing with fire. In 8 IP against Boston this season he has allowed 10 runs because his repertoire does not translate to being effective against a disciplined hitting team like the Red Sox. The Yankees need Colon and Garcia—or AJ and Hughes and Nova for that matter—to step up and pitch them through October.
Despite the fact that the two teams are tied atop the AL East, the Yankees are still considered the second best team in the AL. Until they play a strong series against the Red Sox the Yankees will be looking up at them in the power rankings. Additionally, until they play that strong series against Boston, the Yankees will not have much confidence going into a potential playoff series either.
There are still 9 games remaining in 2011 between the two teams. An 8-1 record to tie the season series is not realistic, but 6-3 will be sufficient in giving the Yankees (and me) confidence in the team going forward.
Barring any unforeseen scenarios, both the Yankees and Red Sox are going to make the playoffs. Entering Thursday, the Yankees are leading the Wild Card by 8 games over the Angels and 9.5 games over Tampa.
Last season the Yankees did not push their starters to win the Division in the last week of the season but I do not foresee that happening this season. Unlike last, this season’s Wild Card ‘winner’ will probably face the Texas Rangers who bolstered their bullpen at the trade deadline and have one of the most powerful offenses in the league. The winner of the Division will face a weaker AL Central team; the Detroit ‘Verlanders’ being the most threatening of that lot.
This weekend’s series will not decide the division, but it will give the victorious team the upper hand entering the final stretch of the season.
NYYUniverse.com Staff Writer
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