COMMENTARY | The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are set to play a pivotal three-game series this weekend that may play an important role in determining the fate of the Yankees' playoff hopes in 2013. The last time these two teams met, a four-game series from Sept. 5 through Sept. 8, the Red Sox successfully took the wind out of the sails of New York's recent hot streak, winning three out of the four games in Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees enter the series coming off of an impressive series win over a division opponent, the Baltimore Orioles, winning three out of four on the road and pulling to only one game back of the Tampa Bay Rays for a wildcard berth. If the Yankees can find a way to win the series against Boston, they will put themselves in great position to finish the season on a strong note and potentially make the playoffs, where, as the San Francisco Giants have proven in recent years, anything can happen.
The following five keys to the weekend series will give fans of both teams a lot to look for and even more to look forward to as one of the great rivalries in sports begins another chapter.
1. New York needs to keep games close
Unlike the Yankees teams of the recent past, the current Bronx Bombers do very little "bombing" at all, ranking near the bottom of the American League in most offensive categories. The Yankees, however, have been able to win a lot of games over the past couple of months despite their offensive woes by keeping scores close and coming up with timely hitting. Over the course of the season, the Yankees are 27-15 in games decided by 1 run, a truly remarkable record.
2. New York needs to get the lead early and keep it
One of the great strengths of the 2013 Red Sox has been the strong performance of the bullpen. Out of the five primary relievers in Boston's pen, four have ERAs below 3.00, including closer Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow. If Boston has a lead late into the game, it's going to be difficult for New York to recover.
3. C.C. Sabathia and Jon Lester will matchup in the series' most important game
The biggest pitching matchup of the series is projected to be on Saturday afternoon, when New York's ace C.C. Sabathia takes the hill against the red-hot Red Sox starter Jon Lester. Sabathia hasn't had his best season in 2013, posting an unusually high ERA of 4.82. No place has been more unfriendly to Sabathia than Fenway Park, where he has allowed 13 earned runs over 10.1 innings, an ERA of 11.32. Lester, on the other hand, has dominated at home, going 5-1 this season with an ERA of 3.48, but against the Yankees, Lester has only managed to produce an ERA of 4.19 with a 1-1 record. Whichever team ends up getting the better pitching performance has a great chance of winning the game, and more importantly, taking the series.
4. The Yankees need production out of the end of the lineup
The Yankees are currently in the midst of one of the least productive seasons, offensively, they have had in recent memory. A big reason for the lack of success is due to the absolutely horrific numbers put up by hitters from the fifth spot in the lineup to the ninth spot. In 2013, batters hitting in the very important fifth spot have only managed to produce 16 home runs, 53 RBIs and a batting average of .210. Batters hitting at the very end of the lineup, in spots seven through nine in the order, have been even less productive, tallying a poor .232 batting average, 24 combined home runs and an on-base percentage of only .287. Simply put, the Yankees have a lot of automatic outs at the end of their batting order, and if the Red Sox can keep that trend intact over the series, it will be tough for New York to keep up.
5. A battle of closers
Boston closer Koji Uehara and legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera are both having exceptional seasons. In Uehara's last 30 games, he hasn't given up a single earned run, and his 1.08 ERA is the best of any closer this season except the Atlanta Brave's Craig Kimbrel, who is having one of the best seasons any closer has ever had in MLB history. Mariano Rivera, whose stellar ERA of 2.30 appears much larger than it actually is when compared to Uehara, currently sits at third in the MLB in saves with 43.
While both men are likely to have a good series, Rivera has struggled (by Mariano Rivera standards) against Boston this year, putting up a higher-than-normal ERA of 3.86, including giving up runs in the last two appearances against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. Uehara, however, has yet to give up a single earned run to the Yankees this year. If Rivera continues to struggle against Boston hitters, it is going to be very difficult for the Yankees to pull off the series victory they desperately need.
You can watch the Boston Red Sox take on the New York Yankees on Friday, Sept. 13 at 7:10 EST, on Saturday, Sep. 14 at 1:05 (nationally televised on Fox), and on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 8:05 on ESPN.
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Justin Haskins is a New England native and a freelance journalist. He has been obsessively following Boston professional sports for 10 years and has been published in numerous online publications and websites.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Yankees
- New York
- Koji Uehara
- Mariano Rivera