The Yankees walked away with a big 12-inning win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon in St. Petersburg, Florida, by the score of 5-1. Dean Anna had a solid at-bat in the top of the 12th to force in the go-ahead run with a bases loaded walk, the Bombers on track after two blowout losses the two previous nights.
Prior to Friday night’s 11-5 loss, the Yankees were playing extremely well, entering the game on a six-game winning streak. Up to that point, the bullpen and starting rotation had been performing nicely, and the offense was clicking on all cylinders.
They got a much needed off-day on Monday, getting a chance to rest up before a tough three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, starting tonight at Fenway Park.
New York and Boston are meeting for the second time already this season. They first met the previous weekend in the Bronx, with the Yankees taking three of four games against their long-time rivals.
The Red Sox will enter Tuesday night’s game with a 9-11 record, putting them 2.5 games behind the American League East leading Yankees. With this series, the Sox can either close the gap or fall further behind early in the season. Here are some things to watch for:
Dynamic duo: The Red Sox will get their first chance to see right-hander Masahiro Tanaka in the first game of this series tonight.
The Yankees’ original plan had Tanaka starting Sunday’s game against the Rays, meaning he would miss facing the Sox altogether this month, but because of the doubleheader against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, the Yanks didn’t want Tanaka pitching on short rest, so he’ll face Boston tonight.
As previously stated, Tanaka’s last start was in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against Chicago. He was at his best, twirling eight shutout innings and striking out 10 Cubs hitters in the Yankees’ 3-0 victory.
The Red Sox, like most teams in the league, don’t know much about Tanaka, except for what they see on video. What they probably do know, however, is that he’ll attack them with his large selection of pitches; changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance.
Most notably, his splitter, which he’ll throw at any point in the count, can get hitters to swing and miss like no other. The pitch drops right out of the strike zone in front of home plate.
As if that’s not enough, the Sox will also get a chance to see Michael Pineda for the second time this season.
Pineda faced the Red Sox when they were first in town this season. You might remember his outing as the “Pinegate.” Pineda tossed six innings of one-run ball, giving up just four hits while striking out seven Boston batters. However, the performance was overshadowed by the sticky-looking substance that was seen on his right hand. He claims it was just dirt, but many believe that story to be highly unlikely.
Enter Robertson: Yankees closer David Robertson is expected to be activated from the disabled list today in time for Tuesday’s game. He has been on the DL for the past couple of weeks because of a Grade 1 groin strain.
Robertson has progressed well throughout his recovery — at least that’s what we know — and everything should be good to go when it is listed back on the lineup card tonight.
He’ll slide right back into the Yankees’ bullpen as the closer, with Shawn Kelley moving back into the role as the setup man. Kelley took over as the closer went Robertson went on the DL, and be pitched pretty well in the role, picking up four saves. Kelley has only given up two runs this season, both in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The move also lets Adam Warren move back down a notch into probably the 7th inning. Warren has been very impressive coming out of the bullpen this season.
Ellsbury’s back: Jacoby Ellsbury is back in Boston for the first time since Game 6 of the 2013 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Ellsbury signed a seven-year, $152 million contract with the Yankees this past offseason, becoming the latest of many to don both a Yankees and Red Sox uniform.
The Red Sox are having a tough time replacing Ellsbury at the top of their lineup. Ellsbury had a .355 on-base percentage, stole a league-leading 52 bases and scored 92 runs in 134 games last season; through 20 games, Sox leadoff hitters are batting under .200 and have scored 10 runs.
Ellsbury, however, has gotten off to a great start with the Yankees, hitting .338 with eight stolen bases through his first 19 games this season.
It’ll be interesting to hear what kind of reaction he gets when he comes up to the plate for the first time in the game. If the Johnny Damon‘s return was any indication, it should be safe to say that there will be more boos (and possibly fake dollar bills) raining down on the field than there will be people thanking his for his years of service with the team.
Tue, 4/22: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (2-0, 2.05 ERA) vs LHP Jon Lester (2-2, 2.17 ERA)
Wed, 4/23: RHP Michael Pineda (2-0, 1.00 ERA) vs RHP John Lackey (2-2, 5.25 ERA)
The Yankees – Red Sox rivalry is one of the best in sports and is always must watch television when they get together, but you still have time to get your Yankees tickets and see this rivalry for yourself.