The Red Sox (59-47) try to make it a clean sweep against the Yankees (66-38) as putative ace Chris Sale (5-9) takes the hill against Domingo German (12-2) in one of those rare games that might mean more to New York than it does to Boston.
Did you hear that sound at the end of yesterday’s 9-5 Red Sox win? That short, sharp sound, like a sudden intake of air writ over a fanbase of over 23 million people? That, my friends, was the sound of Yankees fans’ sphincters tightening as they collectively realized that the 2019 Boston Red Sox, who are not substantially different than the 2018 version, are “only” 8 games back in the division and share control with Oakland over the second wild card spot. I think Yankees fans are justified in worrying, too – their starters have been atrocious during the series, giving up 24 runs on 30 hits in only 11 innings, and the Yanks’ vaunted, “best-in-the-majors” bullpen is worth precisely squat if you can’t get to them with the lead.
Of additional concern, I would think, is the lineup itself, and how it seems that they never have all the pieces together at the same time. Yesterday, for instance, it was no small loss that DJ LeMahieu was out with a groin injury, and it doesn’t appear that he’ll start today, either. The Yankees have an indisputably outstanding lineup when healthy – it’s easily top three in the majors – and as I’ve said repeatedly on the You May Be Right Podcast, I still believe there’s some real magic going on up in the Bronx this season, but the fact is that these nickel-and-dime injuries could very well change the division race from a foregone conclusion to a September slugfest. Look, the Yanks can win the East with half a lineup – but they can’t run away with it.
But it’s still 8 games (9 with a loss and 7 with a win), and 7 games isn’t nothing, never mind 9. Credit the relative privilege of the modern Yankee fan for worrying a collapse is imminent with an 8 game lead in July when, historically, the Yankees haven’t really had to deal with the in-season collapse of the chicken n’ beer or the Bucky F’n Dent varieties. Sure, there will always, gloriously, be 2004, but there’s not too many other occasions in Yankee history when everything seemed to be going along famously and the team just broke down over the course of weeks or months. So I’ll say this to Yankee fans: after today, the Sox will be, at least, 7 games back in the division. That’s kinda alot. Listen to Aaron Boone, and chill. It’s a long season, and every team has bad stretches from time to time.
Which brings us to today – Domingo German and his twelve wins vs. Chris Sale and his five. Of course, records are meaningless compound numbers and Chris Sale’s star is ascendant, as any shameless homer from New England will tell you, but homerism aside, I’m not a believer in German. I know, I get it, he’s the Next Big Thing in New York (behind Severino, of course), but I’m not buying it. Over the last two years, he’s faced Boston all of three times, once in relief, once as an opener, and he’s never lasted more than four innings. Last time out, earlier this season, he went three and two thirds, gave up three runs on six hits in a no decision and an eventual Red Sox loss (the Gardy granny game), and in his career (spanning only those three outings), the Sox are batting .294 against him with an OPS of .780 and a .474 BABIP. Maybe he turns it around today, but I dunno. I don’t see it.
As for Chris Sale, look, I understand the #SaleDay enthusiasm, even if I don’t particularly get the provenance of the nomenclature. Sale is undoubtedly a top-20 arm in the league, and he’s famously competitive – there’s never any doubt he’s going to leave it all on the mound. He’s an Ace, no matter the record. And though this year ain’t last year, and it ain’t 2017, and though Sale is quite obviously a man no longer at the summit of his powers, he’s been lately the best he’s been all year (2 wins and only 2 runs in 12 innings), and if anyone understands what tonight “means”, it’s him.
All that said, it’s still not clear to me that tonight’s game even comes down to the starters. As a sweep creates serious problems of optics in New York, I believe that German most likely gets a quick hook at the first sign of trouble while Boone tries to muscle his way to a sweep-averting win with his vaunted bullpen. If Sale goes six (and I think he can), however, I believe that the Eovaldi-lengthened-bullpen might just be able to hold them, particularly if the offense keeps adding late. I think this one’s the closest of the four, but even so, I’m giving the edge to the Sox as they try to sweep the Yanks out of Fenway.