Red Sox vs. Yankees: Tale of the Tape

The Guru
Contributing Writer

In what is one of the best rivalries in sports, the Boston Red Sox face off against the New York Yankees in a battle for first place in the AL East. The teams kick off a three-game series tonight in the Bronx. What follows is a position-by-position "tale of the tape". Which team do you think has the edge at each spot?

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia/David Ross vs. Chris Stewart/Austin Romine. Salty is hitting .257 with 5 home runs and 18 RBI in 42 games. Ross has four home runs in limited time and is the best defensive catcher of the group.

Stewart and back-up Romine have been splitting time at the position. Stewart is batting .256 with 3 home runs while Romine is hitting just .103 in 15 games.

Edge: Red Sox. Saltalamacchia started slow but has heated up in May. This month he's hit .282 with two home runs, 10 RBI, seven doubles, and a .825 OPS. Salty also gets the edge in the hair department.

First Base: Mike Napoli vs. Mark Teixeira. The Red Sox free agent first baseman is putting together a solid season. Napoli is hitting .261 with 8 home runs, 39 RBI and slugging .483. However, Napoli has struck out 75 times in 203 at-bats.

Mark Teixeira is scheduled to make his 2013 debut tonight. Teixeira has been on the DL since tearing a tendon sheath in his right wrist during the World Baseball Classic. Teixeira hit .251 with 24 home runs last year.

Edge: Red Sox. Napoli is on pace to hit over 25 home runs and drive in over 85 runs. While it’s unclear how Teixeira will perform coming back from injury, last year was his first season with less than 30 homers since 2008. Advantage Hacksaw.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia vs. Robinson Cano. Pedroia is arguably the Red Sox MVP this season. Pedroia is hitting .329 (top 5 in MLB) with 3 home runs, 30 RBI, 8 stolen bases, has displayed gold glove caliber defense all the while playing with a torn thumb ligament. Pedoria’s WAR (wins above replacement) is third in all of baseball trailing only the Orioles Manny Machado and the Reds Joey Votto.

Robinson Cano is in line to make some big money when the season is over. The free agent to be is one of the top 5 players in the game. Cano is hitting .296, he’s third in MLB with 14 home runs, has knocked in 38 runs, is top 10 in the league with 116 total bases and is slugging .545. He’s also pretty good in the field having committed one error in 53 games.

Edge: Yankees. Sorry Sox fans. This is a tough one to call. Both players are MVP candidates. Pedroia is certainly having a great year, but the edge goes to Cano, barely. I await your comments.

Third Base: Jose Iglesias vs. Kevin Youkilis. This is not how either team drew it up to start the season. The Sox Will Middlebrooks is on the DL with back issues. The Yankees (yes, it's hard to say) Kevin Youkilis will be playing his first game since April 28 with his own back problems. While Iglesias is playing third for the first time in his career, he has looked pretty good in the field. At the plate Iglesias is hitting .419 in just 13 games. However, Iglesias is a career .226 hitter.

Youkilis is a career .282 hitter with 150 home runs and 617 RBIs in 1,050 games.

Edge: Yankees. YYYOOUUKKK. Youkilis started the year with 16 hits in his first 46 at-bats, including five multi-hit games. You think Youkilis is fired up for this series?

Shortstop: Stephen Drew vs. Jayson Nix. Drew is currently hitting .217 in 138 AB’s. Drew has three home runs, 21 RBI and leads the team in triples with three. In the field Drew makes the plays he should but lacks real range.

Jayson Nix, in for an injured Jeter (ankle), is hitting .246 in 45 games with a homer, 13 RBI and five steals. There’s a reason Nix is on his fifth team in five years.

Edge: Red Sox. Remember the days when we argued Nomar or Jeter? Yeah, good times.

Outfield: The Red Sox outfield mix of Ellsbury, Nava, Gomes, Carp and now Bradley has played reasonably well lately. Ellsbury has come out of his funk and is 13-30 in his last eight games with eight steals. Nava has been a surprise with a slash of .289/.398/.472 showing some pop (7 HR) and a good glove in right as he fills in for Shane Victorino (back). Gomes has been a disappointment. He was brought in to hit lefties. His average against lefthanders: .186. Gomes did have a home run off a lefty last night. Carp has been a good utility guy. He’s hitting .270 in just 63 AB’s with three home runs. Bradley was hitting .360 with Triple-A Pawtucket before being called up.

The Yankees outfield of Ichiro, Gardner, Brennan Boesch and a rejuvenated Vernon Wells was anxiously awaiting the return of Curtis Granderson to help solidify things. Granderson broke his arm in spring training and after eight games back in New York he was hit by pitch fracturing his pinky knuckle. He’s gone at least another month now. Wells has shown some power with 10 home runs but his average and on-base is much worse against right-handed pitchers. Ichiro has showed his age, 39 and is hitting just .250. Gardner is a streaky hitter, walks a lot, but also strikes out a lot. He does have plus speed (9 SB) if he can manage to get on base. Boesch is hitting .275 in limited time.

Edge: Red Sox. With Ellsbury heating up and the emergence of Nava as a legitimate everyday player the Red Sox outfield is a strength of the team at the plate and in the field. All signs point to a big series from Ells.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz vs. Travis Hafner. Big Papi is hitting .336 with 9 home runs and 35 RBI despite missing the beginning of the season. Ortiz remains the big bat in the middle of the order.

Travis Hafner has been another surprise for the Yanks. He’s hitting .248 with 8 home runs and 25 RBI.

Edge: Red Sox. Big Papi remains a baaad man. Over/under Ortiz homers this weekend: 3. Watch this then discuss.

Starting Pitching: The Red Sox starting five has been key to the early season success of the team. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey rank first in the American League in innings pitched (324.2) and second in the AL in wins (23), strikeouts (318) and average against (.237). Sox starters are third in the AL in ERA (3.69) and fourth in hits allowed (289).

The Yankees rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps and lefty Vidal Nuno (filling in for an injured Andy Pettite) are top 10 in Major League Baseball in wins and ERA. However,Sabathia is 0-2 with a 4.85 ERA since April 27, Hughes has been inconsistent, Phelps lasted 1/3 of an inning Thursday and Kuroda’s durability may be tested as he is 38 years old.

Edge: Red Sox. Lester, Buchholz and an improved Lackey have combined for 18 wins. Lester and Buchholz are legitimate Cy Young contenders. Grab the Bullfrog it's going to be steamy in the Bronx.

Bullpen: The Red Sox bullpen of Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller, Craig Breslow, Clayton Mortenson and now Franklin Morales is second in the AL in strikeouts.

The Yankees pen of Preston Clairborne, David Huff, Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, Ivan Nova, David Robertson and Adam Warren is one of the best in baseball. Logan and Robertson have combined to form a great lefty-righty dual set-up tandem. As a team they have blown the fewest amount of saves in baseball.

Edge: Yankees. Sorry, no Koji high fives.

Closer: Andrew Bailey vs. Mariano Rivera. Rivera is the Major League all-time saves leader with 626. He has 19 in this his final season. Bailey has 87 career saves and six on the year.

Edge: Yankees. Is there any real doubt? Despite blowing a save this week Rivera is the best ever. He may not blow another until August.

Manager: John Farrell vs. Joe Giradi. John Farrell is only in his third season as a big league manager. In Toronto Farrell went 154-170. He has righted the ship in Boston. Farrell just might win AL Manager of the Year.

Joe Girardi’s Yankees haven’t won fewer than 95 games since 2008 and he won a World Series in 2009. Giradi has also been fielding a team missing it's starting first baseman, shortstop, third baseman and centerfielder for most of the year.

Edge: Yankees. Experience gives the nod to the Yanks skipper, but in a bar fight I want Farrell.

The winner is: The Red Sox edge the Yankees 6-5. The Sox are 33-22, a full two games above the second place Yankees (30-23) who have lost five straight. Both teams have been surprising so far. The rivalry has been a little tame the last few years. The Sox and Yanks have not met in the playoffs since the "idiot" days. Expect things to heat up this weekend. Three days, three games. First place on the line. Someone wake up Don Zimmer and get Pedro to the park. It should be an interesting series and an even better summer. Rivalry renewed.

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