The first half of the Major League Baseball season concludes in style this weekend with the most-heated (and certainly most-hyped) rivalry in baseball: Yankees-Red Sox. I had promised myself to stay away from the Yankees for a while as I have previewed many of their series already this season – to hit-and-miss results – but how can I not do Yanks-Sox? Plus, I want to hit on an interesting prop at Sportsbook.ag (see below).
Believe it or not, these rivals have faced off just twice this season. Back on April 20 at Fenway – which just so happened to be the 100th anniversary of the first game ever at the historic park – the Yanks won 6-2 on a day that Alex Rodriguez hit his 631st career homer to pass Ken Griffey Jr. for fifth place on the career list. The next night, the Yanks won 15-9 in a game you may remember well because New York was down 9-0 entering the top of the sixth inning. Mark Teixeira had six RBI, homering from both sides of the plate for the 13th time in his career, as New York matched the franchise's largest deficit overcome in a win. That loss dropped Boston to 4-10 and brought out the boo-birds for new Manager Bobby Valentine, who called it rock bottom.
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The teams were supposed to complete the three-game series then on Sunday night but it was postponed by rain. And that game will be made up on Saturday as part of a day-night doubleheader. Thus, any series price will only include the first three games and not Sunday’s ESPN national TV game (Yanks-Sox getting the ESPN Sunday night treatment? Shocker!).
Boston had been playing much better lately and climbed a season-high five games over .500 with a win last Sunday over Seattle. But then the Sox were swept three games to start this week in Oakland, amassing five total runs – maybe they miss Kevin Youkilis, who is scorching hot right now for the White Sox. About the only highlight was David Ortiz hitting career homer No. 400 in Wednesday’s loss. The Red Sox lost just their fourth series in the past 17. It marked Boston's first road series loss since dropping two of three at Kansas City from May 7-9.
Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia missed Wednesday’s game with a sore thumb, but it’s not thought to be serious as of this writing so he should play in this series. However, third baseman Will Middlebrooks missed all three games in Oakland and is questionable for this series with a hamstring injury. Think the Sox wish they had Youkilis, who was essentially made expendable by Middlebrooks, now? Outfielder Scott Podsednik could be activated from the DL for this series.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have slowed down after being the best team in baseball for about a month, a run that started after a May 21 loss dropped them to 21-21. New York has dropped four of its past seven and just lost two of three at Tampa Bay. No matter, it still leads the American League East by five games entering Thursday and is 7.5 ahead of Boston. Yanks second baseman Robinson Cano, who will defend his Home Run Derby title on Monday, has driven in at least one run in a career-best eight consecutive games. That’s three shy of the club record, which is shared by some guys named Ruth and DiMaggio.
Yankees at Red Sox Probable Starting Pitchers (first three games only)
Friday: Yankees RHP Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.17) vs. Red Sox RHP Josh Beckett (4-7, 4.06) – Kuroda is definitely the better pitcher right now as he was 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA in June and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in his last outing when he blanked the White Sox over seven innings. The former Dodger has pitched only seven career innings vs. Boston and didn’t see them in the first series. Beckett has lost three straight starts and Boston has lost the past four times overall he has taken the mound. But perhaps the Yanks are a perfect tonic for him as Beckett was 4-0 with a 1.85 ERA against them a year ago.
Saturday’s Game 1: Yankees RHP Phil Hughes (9-6, 4.29) vs. Red Sox LHP Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.51): You never know which Hughes will show up, but it’s been the good one of late as he has won his past two starts, allowing a total of two runs in 16 innings. Actually, since the start of June he has been very good other than a six-run outing in a loss to Atlanta. Hughes is 2-5 with a 6.65 ERA in his career vs. Boston. Morales has been terrific since being moved into the rotation and he will no doubt stay there with Daisuke Matsuzaka hurt again. Actually, Morales pitched back out of the bullpen Wednesday but that was planned. As a starter, he has allowed just four earned runs in 18 innings.
Saturday’s Game 2: Yankees RHP Freddy Garcia (2-2, 5.94) vs. Red Sox LHP Felix Doubront (8-4, 4.42): Garcia returned to the rotation Monday vs. Tampa Bay and allowed two runs (both on homers) in 5.1 innings in a no-decision. He was wretched as a starter in April and the Red Sox got him for five runs and seven hits in 1.2 innings in that 15-9 Yankee win. Garcia was then rocked again in his next start and moved to the bullpen before Monday. Doubront might be tiring as he has a 5.93 ERA in his past five starts. The former reliever has already pitched 89.2 innings – he had pitched just 35.1 in the majors entering this season. Doubront opposed Garcia in that 15-9 game and allowed just one run and four hits in six innings – then the Sox bullpen imploded.
Yankees at Red Sox Betting Odds and Trends
I would project Boston as a slight series favorite, probably around -120. For Game 1, Boston is -115 with the total at 9.5. New York is 18-22-1 “over/under” on road and Boston is 25-15-2 O/U at home.
The Yankees are 8-1 in their past nine after an off day. New York is 5-1 in its past six games as a dog. Boston is 1-4 in its past five after an off day. The Sox are 1-4 in Beckett’s past five starts in a series opener. But the Red Sox are 6-0 in Beckett’s past six starts vs. the Yanks. Boston is 11-4 in its past 15 games as a favorite. The under is 7-0 in Boston’s past seven games.
MLB Picks: Yankees at Red Sox Betting Predictions
The Red Sox obviously aren’t upset they won’t have to see either CC Sabathia or Andy Pettitte in this series, but then again the Yankees don’t have to worry about Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom could return right after the break. I wouldn’t say this is a make-or-break series for Boston in terms of winning the division, but it almost is – especially if the Sox get swept. But I think a return to Fenway will awaken the offense and that Boston wins three of four, including Game 1. I like the under there.
As for that Sportsbook.ag prop I mentioned, it’s on the winner of the 18-game season series between these teams, with New York at -320 and Boston at +240. But I love the Sox there on that price. I expect them to tie the season series at 3-3 after this weekend and then Boston gets back Crawford and Ellsbury, while the Yanks won’t have Pettitte until August. Both teams are likely to make a trade before the deadline, however, and that could obviously change things. But as of now, go with Boston.
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