The Yankees are red hot right now, they have won seven straight games and their pitchers are not walking anybody! Now, they take on their rivals, who to this point have had the upper hand on them this year. For this mega series, we talked with Derek Styalko from BosoxInjection.com about the Boston Red Sox. We also included our usual podcast that is pumped and filled with the info you need to know for this weekend’s series
First, my questions to Derek:
1. With the addition of Erik Bedard to the Red Sox rotation and the injury to Clay Buchholz, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you with this Red Sox rotation as of right now?
To be honest, it would be between a 6 and a 7. Lester and Beckett are rock solid studs and its after that where the concern comes in. Erik Bedard has the ability to be an excellent number 3 starter. His start the other night against Cleveland wasn’t terrible and consider he’s only made two starts after his stint on the DL, he’ll be eased into his workload. If he can provide solid outings from now until the end of September then some faith will be restored. John Lackey has been better of late, going 4-0 before his last start in which he gave up back to back homers and left the game in the fifth inning in typical Lackey fashion. Does Red Sox Nation have confidence with him as the game 3 starter in the ALDS? Not a chance. Tim Wakefield hasn’t pitched like a 45 year old, in fact there have been times he’s pitched like the 35 year old Wakefield. But he hasn’t exactly been consistent either and in a short series where anything can happen, Wake doesn’t give you the type of confidence that Lester or Beckett do. The Bedard deal was one that had to be made even if it was last minute. I agree with you in that Jimenez was just too expensive and in my opinion wasn’t worth it. Rich Harden was close to coming to Boston but again his injury prone ways made Theo Epstein think twice and eventually the deal fell through. So Bedard it was and now he has to prove he’s reliable in clutch situations in order to have additional confidence in the rotation as we get into September and hopefully October.
2. Last year, Jacoby Ellsbury was hurt for most of the season. This year, he is having a very strong season and is Boston’s best outfielder. How has he progressed into more of a power hitter to go with his stolen base ability?
Anytime Ellsbury gets in front of the microphone he’s the first to say that his resurgent season has been for one reason – he’s 100% healthy. As far as the power that Ellsbury has displayed, it comes from him driving the ball more rather than hitting for singles. He is on pace to set career high in every single offensive category except stolen bases so his entire game has been elevated and as a result he’s hitting more home runs than he ever has. He also continues to smack doubles and triples all over Fenway Park and while he may not steal 70 bags this year, he still remains a huge threat on the base paths, especially when he gets on in the first inning and sets the tone for the game. He’s been a lot of fun to watch and has made Epstein’s life miserable with the thought of having him walk out of Boston when his contract expires. Ellsbury must be resigned! He’s proven he is the ultimate leadoff man and is performing like an MVP so how could he possibly go elsewhere?
3. Now that the AL East is tied, how big is this series for the Boston Red Sox? How much weight does this series have on who will be the AL East winner and the Wild Card winner at the end of the year?
I think this is a huge series for the Red Sox for a couple of reasons. 1). Most obviously, come Sunday night one team will have at least a 1 game lead in the division and with New York playing so well any kind of lead against them is better than trailing. It’s hard to imagine that the Red Sox went 20-6 in the month of July and entering month of August they only had a two game lead over the Yankees. My hats off to Joe Girardi, he’s got his club playing just as well. 2). If the Red Sox can continue to dominate the Yankees through this series then it will continue to play in the Yankees minds as to whether or not they can beat Boston. Mind set is everything in professional sports and as you pointed out, in 2009 anything can happen when it comes to a season series.
I don’t think this series has a huge baring on who will win the AL East and who’ll get the Wild Card. With six more meetings between the two clubs and still over 40 games remaining in the regular season, even a 3 game lead won’t be safe for either club when it’s this early in August. I do think though that if the Yankees can come into Fenway and sweep, then in the back of the Red Sox minds it’ll be “is 2009 happening all over again?” Then they have to be careful of panic and not letting the season series slip away and most importantly giving the Yankees some life.
4. In what area of the game do you think the Red Sox have a huge edge of over the Yankees? Why?
This is a good question and a really difficult one. When it comes to offense, both clubs are capable of putting up a crooked number during any inning of the game as most witnessed by the Yankees outburst against Chicago this week. Offensive category I denote as a tie. Both starting rotations are good on the front end, but still have way too many question marks when it comes to a solid 5 starters. Starting pitchers category….another tie. Defensively, again I think both clubs are very even. From the turnaround of catchers Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Dustin Pedroia’s brilliance at second base, the Red Sox are playing great in the field. Not to be outdone is the flashy leather of Robby Cano and of course the smooth handed Jeter. Both outfields are solid. From Granderson to Gardner, both have speed and use it when tracking down well hit balls to the gap, as does Ellsbury and Crawford. Defensive category – tied again. The bullpen – while the Yankees have found replacements for both Joba Chamberlain and Rafael Soriano and en route to one of the best bullpens in the league, don’t count out the one two punch of Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon. Bard recently had his scoreless inning streak snapped at over 30 innings and Papelbon has enjoyed a nice resurgence into one of his nicest seasons in Boston. Bullpen category – tied again. I just don’t see any distinct advantage for either the Yankees or Red Sox. They’ll have to battle it out until the end of September and may the best team, or the team that gets the right bounces win the division. It’s gonna be a wild ride for the next two months and nothing but the best entertainment.
5. The debate over AL MVP includes three guys in this series, 2 of them Red Sox players (Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez) and Curtis Granderson of the Yankees. I know you won’t pick a Yankee for MVP right now, so which of those two Red Sox should be the MVP of the American League?
If the season ended today the obvious choice for me is Gonzalez. He has hands down put up the best numbers out of anyone who is in the MVP conversation, despite not hitting as many home runs as Granderson. Gonzo continues to bat over .350 on the season and he is currently nicely entrenched in two hitting streaks. The first is a modest 14 game hitting streak where he is batting over .500. The second is, Gonzalez has a first inning hit in three consecutive games! Now those are all nice and fuzzy for us who like qwirky stats, but in all honesty he leads the AL in many offensive categories and has been a consistent run producer for the Red Sox all season long. I recognize the type of year Granderson is having and he deserves a hard long look at MVP. Call me bias, call me what you want, I have to give the nod to Gonzalez at this point. Ellsbury also deserves admirable consideration, but again when you compare the numbers, its Gonzalez who is the front runner in my opinion. Isn’t it great that the MVP could come down to another Red Sox and Yankees battle? Just another chapter in the greatest sports rivalry in the world.
6. What are your thoughts on the pitching matchups this weekend? Who wins the series?
First of all, I think it’s great that both teams were able to set their rotations for this series. Second, I think the Red Sox have the slight edge given Lester and Beckett don’t draw CC. Friday night is a close one, but given how the Red Sox have hit Colon fairly well this year I’ll give the edge to Boston. Saturday has CC pitted against John “I often Lack my best stuff” Lackey. Throw in the way CC has been on the mound lately and this game shouldn’t even be close. Barring a miracle, Yankees win big time Saturday afternoon. The nightcap on Sunday that will see Beckett against Freddy Garcia, again I give the nod to Beckett and the Red Sox. Beckett has 8 no decisions on the season and what’s so frustrating is that he’s given up 2 or less runs in 6 of those games. Also, he’s had his best stuff this year against New York and the Red Sox have been able to get to Garcia enough to give some cushion to their starter. Red Sox take 2 out of 3 this series. It’s going to be a great weekend of baseball!!!!
Now, for the Podcast: