A little over six months ago, the Boston Red Sox opened the playoffs with their first step toward winning a fourth World Series since 2004, while the New York Yankees saw their 100-win season halted with a disappointing loss in the American League Division Series.
Having last met officially in that four-game playoff series, the rivalry resumes Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium for a brief two-game series. Both teams are off to slow starts for various reasons.
"Anytime we get together with them, you know it's' going to be tough battles," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "And both teams, before long, will probably be rolling pretty well."
Beset by a lengthy injury list, the Yankees are off to a 6-9 start and have lost their first three home series for the first time since 1982. New York also held a lead in 14 games, including Sunday when it took a 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox after Aaron Judge scored the first run and drove in the second run with a single.
"We just have to pick our heads up, tie our shoes a little bit tighter, and get ready to go because these games do count," Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. "Even though it's April, we should have a lot better record than what we are."
Boston's fourth title defense since breaking an 86-year drought is off to a 6-11 start. It is Boston's worst 17-game start since 2011 and the Red Sox have yet to win a series.
The Red Sox started by going 3-8 on a season-opening 11-game trip through Seattle, Oakland and Arizona, and then split a six-game homestand against Toronto and Baltimore. On Monday, Boston was unable to produce much offense, tying a season low with four hits in an 8-1 loss to Baltimore.
"We know what we have to do as a group from the coaching staff to the players," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "We keep talking the game, preaching the game, trying to get better. It will get better. There's no timetable, obviously the sooner the better."
J.D. Martinez had two hits Monday and is batting .344 while Xander Bogaerts is hitting .304. Mookie Betts was 0-for-3 and is off to a 9-for-44 start. Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-11 in the series and Andrew Benintendi missed the last 14 innings with a foot injury.
Both teams are also experiencing their share of struggles on the mound. Boston heads into the series with a 5.93 ERA while the Yankees own a 4.04 ERA (4.33 ERA by starting pitchers) and a 5.95 ERA in their last six games.
Sale is off to his first 0-3 start and is winless in his last seven starts since Aug. 12. He also has dropped three straight starts for the fourth time in his career after allowing five runs on seven hits in four innings last Tuesday against Toronto.
"I'm struggling and I don't know if I've really pitched like this in my life," Sale said. "It's a tough spot to be in. But I've got guys up here fighting and I've got to keep fighting. There's no giving up. If something's not working, you gotta go to something else. When that's not working you got to go something else."
Sale is 6-4 with a 1.61 ERA in 17 career appearances (14 starts) against the Yankees. He was 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA in two starts against the Yankees last season.
Paxton will be making his fourth start as a Yankee and is looking to rebound from a rough outing last Wednesday when he allowed five runs on eight hits in four innings at Houston. On Sunday, Paxton said he went over video with Carlos Beltran because he thought he was tipping some of his pitches.
"I did find out I was tipping my pitches when there were guys at second base, so they knew what was coming," Paxton said. "They were fouling off some pretty good pitches, taking some pretty good pitches. There were stealing some signs. So that didn't help."
Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in four career starts against Boston.
--Field Level Media