Friday night at Fenway Park, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox open a three-game series with enormous postseason race implications. The two clubs are fighting for wild card spots, and while both can theoretically make the postseason, it seems more likely it will be one or the other given the September run the AL East rival Toronto Blue Jays have been on.
Here are the wild card standings as of Thursday morning:
- Red Sox: 88-65 (+2.0 GB)
- Yankees: 86-57
- Blue Jays: 85-67 (0.5 GB)
- Mariners: 83-69 (2.5 GB)
- Athletics: 82-70 (3.5 GB)
“This is who we’re up against, fighting for the same thing,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including Dan Martin of the New York Post, on Wednesday. “You should want it no other way. We’re gonna find out [who’s the best]. When you’re fighting for a couple spots (among) a few teams, the fact you get to settle it mano-a-mano on the field, that’s the way it should be. Hopefully we get where we want to go by playing good baseball.”
Here are the details for this weekend’s Yankees vs. Red Sox series at Fenway Park. All games can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free).
Fri., Sept. 24
7:10 p.m. ET
NESN, WPIX, ESPN
Sat., Sept. 26
4:10 p.m. ET
NESN, YES, MLBN
Sun., Sept. 26
7:08 p.m. ET
The Yankees will have their three best starters on the mound this weekend — Cortes has been godsend for them — though Chris Sale won’t pitch this weekend. He started Wednesday night’s win against the Mets. That is a break for New York, not that Boston’s three scheduled starters are pushovers.
Here are six things to know going into this weekend’s series at Fenway Park, plus a prediction thrown in for good measure.
1. Boston has already won the season series
The season series has been one of extremes. The Red Sox won each of their first seven meetings with the Yankees this year and outscored them 40-17 in the process. The Yankees have since bounced back to win six of their last nine games against the Red Sox. At Fenway Park, the Red Sox are 6-1 against the Yankees this year and have outscored them 37-21.
No matter what happens this weekend, the Red Sox have already clinched the season series over their historic rivals. They’re 10-6 against the Yankees with three games remaining, meaning Boston holds the home-field advantage tiebreaker. Should these two teams finish with identical records and meet in a Game 163 tiebreaker or the Wild Card Game, it would be played at Fenway Park.
2. The Red Sox will wear yellow
Baseball players are nothing if not superstitious, and because of that, we’ll see the Red Sox in their Boston Marathon-themed City Connect jerseys in Friday night’s opener. Boston has won seven straight games, the past five in the aggressively yellow City Connect jerseys. They’re going to continue wearing them until the winning streak ends.
“There’s a pretty good chance, yeah,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters, including NESN’s Alexandra Francisco, when asked whether the team would continue wearing the City Connect jerseys this weekend. “I mean, we’re not superstitious, we just love routines. And it just happens that, you know, 6 o’clock those uniforms are there so it’s part of our routine right now.”
Cora can say they’re not superstitious, but c’mon. Hey, whatever works, right?
3. Severino is back
Luis Severino and Sale had Tommy John surgery within a month of each other last spring. Sale had a relatively smooth rehab and was able to rejoin the Red Sox in August. Severino had multiple setbacks during his rehab, however, and didn’t rejoin the Yankees until earlier this week. He’s limited to short relief duty because there’s not enough time to stretch him out to start.
Severino made his season debut Tuesday night — it was his first MLB game action since Game 3 of the 2019 ALCS — and struck out two in two scoreless innings. He wasn’t razor sharp, which is not surprising following Tommy John surgery, but he looked pretty good. Like a pitcher who could contribute meaningful innings down the stretch.
“He’ll help us here down the stretch,” Boone told Martin following Tuesday’s game. “It’s Luis Severino. I’m not gonna cap what that could be … It’s pretty late here in the season, but that’s a talented person and a great pitcher.”
With shoulder trouble sidelining Jonathan Loáisiga and Chad Green dealing with some home run problems, there’s a clear path for Severino to assume high leverage innings these final nine games. That might be a big ask so soon after elbow reconstruction, but the Yankees may not have another choice. Severino is healthy and can be dominant, and will get a chance to impact the race.
4. Whitlock is on the injured list
Both teams will be without their best reliever this series. Jonathan Loáisiga is out with a shoulder issue, and Red Sox righty Garrett Whitlock was placed on the 10-day injured list with a pectoral problem earlier this week. He is not eligible to be activated until next week, after the Yankees leave town. The 25-year-old owns a 1.99 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings this year.
Here’s what Cora told reporters, including Steve Hewitt of the Boston Herald, about Whitlock’s absence:
“We’ve got some capable guys and somebody has to step up,” Cora said. “We’ve got Tanner [Houck] down in the bullpen. He’ll do his job back there and we have some guys that actually were able to reset over the weekend, staying away from them. They’re fresh.
“It doesn’t matter who you lose now, it’s a big hit anyway. Whoever you lose on the roster now is a big one. It can be your star player or your utility guy. You don’t want to lose guys. Somebody else has to step up. I think we’ve done a good job throughout the season and especially the last 15, 20 days to do that. The next guy has to step up and do the job.”
All-Star closer Matt Barnes really struggled prior to landing on the COVID-19 list last month and he has continued to struggle since returning earlier this week. Righties Hansel Robles and Adam Ottavino figure to do most of the heavy lifting in high-leverage spots this weekend with Whitlock out.
Whitlock, it should be noted, is a former Yankees prospect. Boston plucked him from its rivals in this past winter’s Rule 5 Draft.
5. Who’s hot, who’s not
The old saying is it’s not who you play, it’s when you play them, and the Yankees and Red Sox both have several players riding hot streaks coming into the series. Here are some numbers over the last 14 days:
The Yankees have had nine players bat at least 40 times in the last 14 days and all nine have put up at least a league average OPS during that time. For the Red Sox, Enrique Hernández and Hunter Renfroe have hit the skids a bit recently, going a combined 17 for 83 (.205) over the last two weeks. By and large though, both offenses are playing well going into this series.
6. Boston has the remaining schedule edge
On paper, the Red Sox have a much easier remaining schedule than the Yankees. Following this weekend’s series with New York, the Red Sox go out on the road to finish their season with three games against the Orioles and three games against the Nationals, two teams already eliminated from postseason contention and looking ahead to their October vacations.
The Yankees, meanwhile, head to Toronto for three games next week, then close out their season with three games against the first-place Rays at home. Any team can beat any other team on any given day in this game, but the Red Sox have a decided advantage in the quality (or lack thereof) of their remaining opponents. That could factor into the postseason race significantly.
Going to close with a prediction because I can’t come up with a good reason not to. The official CBS Sports prediction: Red Sox win two of three. Although the Yankees are 6-3 in their last nine games against Boston, five of the six wins came down to the wire, and New York recently lost series to the Angels, Orioles, Mets, and Cleveland. The Yankees have been really unimpressive the last few weeks even while hanging around the wild-card race. The Red Sox have been the better team all year, both head-to-head and overall, and I expect that to continue at Fenway Park this weekend.