(DJ LeMahieu photo courtesy Andy Marlin/USA TODAY Sports)
Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.
When and Where: Thursday, July 25, Fenway Park, Boston, Mass., 7:10 p.m. EDT.
It is now or never for the Boston Red Sox with regards to challenging for the American League East title as they begin a crucial four-game series at home versus the division-leading New York Yankees on Thursday night.
Tanaka looks to extend personal winning streak to five
Masahiro Tanaka has won both his starts coming out of the All-Star break by being effective more than overpowering for the Yankees.
The right-hander conceded a pair of solo homers and little else in beating Toronto on July 14, and then made sure to get through six innings Saturday in an 11-5 win over Colorado as he was staked through a six-run lead in the first two.
Tanaka meandered his way through a five-run sixth after limiting the Rockies to two hits in the first five innings, something Yankees manager Aaron Boone did not seem all that worried about after the righty picked up his fourth straight victory.
“His split flattened out in that final inning,” he told the club’s official website. “(Nolan) Arenado got him on the split that turned into more of a two-seam fastball up and out over the plate, so I think he just lost the bite on that pitch there. I thought up to that point, it was a really good pitch for him today.”
“It’s been one of those things for him this year that whether it’s been within a game or start-to-start where he has searched for it. Hasn’t been real consistent for him, but also, the day could’ve contributed to it. Just a lot of long innings on the other side in the first half of the game, obviously the heat and everything. So it’s hard to say exactly.”
It is not hard to say Tanaka’s lone start against the Red Sox this year was a disaster as he was drilled for six runs while retiring only two batters in London on June 29. He squandered a six-run lead in that opening frame, but the Yankees eventually recorded a 17-13 victory.
Tanaka has not registered a decision in his last four matchups with New York’s archrival and is 8-4 with a 4.82 ERA in 19 career starts versus Boston. That includes a 4-2 record and 3.90 ERA in nine starts at Fenway Park.
Porcello bidding to win fourth straight start for BoSox
Boston (56-47) enters this contest 11 games out of first in the AL East and one behind Tampa Bay for second. The Red Sox were denied a sweep of the Rays on Wednesday with a 3-2 loss, but manager Alex Cora is not hiding from the importance of this series.
“We know what’s coming over the weekend,” Cora said. “It should be fun. It’s going to be long. Hopefully no rain delays or whatever. Finally we see them at home. It’s kind of weird.
“They’re playing well,” he added. “You can’t hide it. It will be fun playing them this weekend. I’ve been saying all along, DJ [LeMahieu] is a game-changer for them. It’s the approach, going the other way, playing defense. I got to meet the guy at the All-Star Game. He’s very professional, very quiet. You can tell that he understands the game.
Like Tanaka, Rick Porcello (8-7, 5.61) failed to make it out of the first inning in that June 29 London slugfest, retiring just one batter while yielding six runs.
Since returning stateside, though, the right-hander has won three straight starts thanks in large part to the Red Sox scoring piles of runs on his behalf.
Porcello has an 8.64 ERA during his winning streak, yielding 16 runs and 28 hits in 16 2-3 innings while opponents are hitting him at a .354 clip. That has been more than canceled out by Boston’s prolific offense, which has provided him 33 runs in those games.
Porcello’s run support average of 7.16 per start is eighth in the majors but also only third on the Red Sox behind Eduardo Rodriguez and recently acquired Andrew Cashner.
The righty worked through a five-run third inning versus Baltimore in Boston’s 17-6 victory Saturday and yielded six runs and 11 hits over five innings.
He did not fare well in his other start versus the Yankees in the Bronx on June 1, taking the loss after giving up five runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-3 Red Sox defeat. Porcello is 10-9 with a 3.68 ERA in 24 career starts against New York, and his earned run average has spiked more than one-half run from the last two meetings.
The Red Sox are:
- 1-5 in their last six home games vs. teams with an above-.500 road record.
- 1-4 in their last five games vs. above-.600 teams.
- 2-5 in their last seven home games vs. the Yankees.
The Yankees are:
- 37-15 in their last 52 during game 1 of a series.
- 6-1 in their last seven games vs. the Red Sox.
- 45-15 in their last 60 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.
Yankees OVER 5.5 runs (-121)
This pick is as much about the Yankees continuing their offensive bludgeoning of opponents as it is Porcello failing to find a rhythm of late. New York scored 30 runs in taking two of three from Minnesota and also has scored six or more runs in seven of the last nine games.
The Yankees have also scored at least five runs in all but one of their seven games versus the Red Sox this year, highlighted by the 29 runs in the two games in London. On Boston’s end, it has allowed six or more runs on six occasions in 13 games since the All-Star break and seven of its last 12 at Fenway.
Given the recent form of both pitchers, the Yankees get the nod here on the money line only since Tanaka appears to be limiting his problems within one bad inning.
Additionally, at some point the Red Sox are not going to put up huge numbers in all of Porcello’s starts. The expectation is Boston scratches out a few runs against Tanaka, but not the bunches that he has seen since returning from London.
OVER 6.5 runs first 5 innings (Even)
The five-inning over is on a six-game run with the Yankees, who have scored five or more runs five times in that stretch. While the over/under has split seven meetings this season (3-3-1), the over has gone 3-1-1 in the last five.
The five-inning over has also hit in Porcello’s last four starts and is 4-3-1 in Tanaka’s last eight. Lastly, the over is 8-5 in Boston’s 13 games since the All-Star break.
Yankees OVER 1.5 runs first 3 innings (-115)
The Yankees have cleared this total in both of their matchups with Porcello this year, putting up a three-spot in the first meeting in the Bronx.
But what makes this a solid pick has been New York’s run of scoring early and often of late — the Yanks have scored two or more runs in the first three innings in six of their last eight games and in five of their seven versus the Red Sox this season.
Porcello’s best ERA in each individual inning of the first three is 4.74 in the second and has yielded 46 runs and 72 hits in the first three innings of his 20 starts on the season.
OVER 11 runs (-121)
The over is on a five-game run with the Yankees, and the over improved to 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings between the teams after their offensive tour de force in England.
Not only has the over hit in Porcello’s last four starts, the line was also 10.5 runs or higher on each occasion, and there were at least 16 runs scored in all four games. The over also sporting a strong 9-0-1 mark in Porcello’s last 10 Thursday starts and is 7-3 in Boston’s last 10 at Fenway.
Yankees -0.5 runs first 5 innings (+111)
Again, the slight edge goes to the Yankees because Tanaka has been better than Porcello of late. New York has also led at the five-inning mark in each of the right-hander’s last seven starts, which includes the 17-13 win over Porcello and the Red Sox in London, and is also 7-1-1 at the midway point in Tanaka’s nine starts against AL East rivals.
The Red Sox have trailed at the five-inning mark in both of Porcello’s starts against the Yankees this year but are 6-2-1 in his last nine starts at Fenway.