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Red Sox-Yankees series preview

04.22.14 at 1:42 pm ET
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Jacoby Ellsbury returns to Fenway Park as a member of the Yankees on Tuesday. (AP)

Jacoby Ellsbury returns to Fenway Park as a member of the Yankees on Tuesday. (AP)

Will he receive a warm welcome, or will he be greeted by boos? Former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will make his Fenway return in pinstripes on Tuesday night, as the Red Sox kick off a three-game set with the Yankees.

The Red Sox recorded their first walk-off victory of 2014 on Sunday night thanks to a Dustin Pedroia double (which may or may not have been a home run) and a sac fly from Mike Carp. Though they added some dramatics, the Red Sox couldn’€™t produce another Patriots’ Day comeback win on Monday, even after coming all the way back from a 6-0 deficit.

“We got down early. Our bullpen kept us in the game, kept chipping away, and we had a chance to win that game at the end of the game,” Mike Napoli said (via MLB.com). “So we fought hard, but it fell short. But we’ve got a big series [against the Yankees] coming up. We’ll take it one day at a time and try to get on track.”

With the loss, the Red Sox settled for a series split with the Orioles that left them two games below .500 at 9-11. They’€™ll look to improve that against the Yankees, who took three of four from the Sox earlier this month in New York.

The Yankees were able to salvage the split against the Rays and improve to 11-8 after allowing a total of 27 runs over the course of two games in St. Petersburg, Fla., including a 16-1 drubbing on Saturday. But the Yankees bounced back by scoring four runs in the 12th inning of Sunday’€™s contest and securing the 5-1 victory.

“That’s a big win, after winning the first game the way we did, and then to really get beat up the next two days,” manager Joe Girardi told reporters. “To bounce back and leave here 2-2, and you’ve got a day off tomorrow, you try to get ready for the Red Sox. I thought that was important.”

The Yankees got a boost on Sunday with the return of Mark Teixeira, who had been out of action since April 4 after straining his hamstring. Since losing their five-time Gold Glove first baseman, the Yankees went with a combination of Kelly Johnson, Francisco Cervelli and Scott Sizemore at first. Johnson was the only one of the three with prior experience at first base, and he had only played 18 innings there prior to 2014. Closer David Robertson was activated from the DL on Monday after he missed a little over two weeks with a groin injury.

It wasn’t all good news on the injury front for the Yankees, however. As if Saturday’€™s 16-1 rout wasn’€™t enough, they also lost starter Ivan Nova, who was diagnosed with a partial tear of his UCL and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. An injury of that nature usually is one that requires Tommy John surgery, meaning that, if Nova elects to undergo the surgery, he’€™ll miss the remainder of 2014.

“It’s really unfortunate. It’s a guy that, obviously, we were counting on pretty heavily this year,” Girardi said.

There’€™s been no official word on who will replace Nova in the rotation, but candidates include Vidal Nuno (who got the start for the Yankees on Sunday afternoon and tossed five scoreless frames), reliever David Phelps or even former Red Sox pitcher Alfredo Aceves, who signed a minor league pact with the Yankees.

Regardless, the Yankees won’€™t have to worry about shuffling the rotation for the upcoming series. Here are the matchups for the three-game set.

Tuesday: Jon Lester (2-2, 2.17) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (2-0, 2.05)
Wednesday: John Lackey (2-2, 5.25) vs. Michael Pineda (2-1, 1.00)
Thursday: Felix Doubront (1-2, 5.48) vs. CC Sabathia (2-2, 5.19)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

– When he was called up from Pawtucket on April 18, Brock Holt had been hitting .380/.446/.600 with six doubles, a triple and a home run for the Triple-A club. That hot streak has carried over to the majors, and Holt is making his case for an extended stay in the bigs. The infielder went 2-for-4 with a RBI and run scored out of the leadoff spot on Monday, and has gone 6-for-14 (a .429 average) in four games since he was recalled. And with the club still searching for a consistent leadoff hitter, Holt has more than likely earned a second audition, seeing 25 pitches over his five plate appearances on the afternoon.

– Pedroia had been going through a slump (he was 6-for-41 in 10 games from April 7-18), but he’€™s showing signs of busting out. The second baseman collected two hits in each of the final three games against the Orioles and played an instrumental role in both comebacks (Sunday night and Monday). He clubbed four doubles over his last three games, and has upped his batting average from .231 (at the start of the series with the Orioles) to .275. Although he’€™s driven in just three runs on the season, Pedroia has come around to score 11 times, and he’€™s drawn six walks as compared to just eight strikeouts.

Chris Capuano continues to be one of the most pleasant surprises for the 2014 Red Sox. The lefty has been just about untouchable in his 10 2/3 scoreless innings this season, allowing six hits and just one walk while fanning 10. Capuano came up big with 1 2/3 innings of one-hit ball on Sunday night, keeping the Red Sox close and poised for their ninth inning comeback.

WHO’€™S HOT: YANKEES

– Ellsbury has been a force to be reckoned with at the top of the Yankees lineup so far. The center fielder has kept his average over .300 since April 5, and his OBP sat above .400 since April 4 before slipping to .395 with an 0-for-5 showing on Sunday. Ellsbury hasn’€™t shown overwhelming power, with five doubles and a triple in 76 plate appearances, but he has stolen eight bases in 10 attempts.

Alfonso Soriano had himself a series against Tampa Bay, knocking in three runs with seven hits, including a double and a home run. Over his last five contests, Soriano is hitting .450 and has brought his line on the season to .275/.324/.493.

Carlos Beltran has been the primary source of run production for the Yankees as of late, driving in seven runs over his last seven contests with three doubles and three home runs. The outfielder leads the club with 11 RBIs, and matches Soriano for the most long balls with four apiece. The 36-year-old has been on a tear, batting .359 (14-for-39) since April 9.

WHO’€™S NOT: RED SOX

– It’€™s safe to say the start of the 2014 season has been nightmarish for Daniel Nava. The outfielder continues to struggle mightily at the plate. His batting average has yet to see the right side of the Mendoza line, and his OBP sits at .240, easily the lowest mark among Red Sox regulars. However, Nava did deliver his first multi-hit game since April 2 on Monday, going 2-for-4. With Shane Victorino‘€™s return quickly approaching, Nava could be an option for demotion, seeing as how the 31-year-old has options left on his contract.

Grady Sizemore‘€™s bat has been awfully quiet over the past couple of series. Though Sizemore impressed with his 12-for-35 start to the season, he’€™s collected just one hit in his last six games and 22 at-bats. But Sizemore has stayed healthy and proven that he can contribute, starting three games in a row over the weekend and seeing time at all three outfield positions.

– After a brief hot streak, A.J. Pierzynski has cooled down. The catcher has been clearly frustrated at the plate, and with good reason — he’€™s just 1-for-19 over his last five starts. But Pierzynski has occasionally found alternative ways to reach base, drawing his first walk of the season (he had just 11 in 134 games last season) and getting plunked by pitches three times over his last five games.

WHO’€™S NOT: YANKEES

– The Yankees had some big shoes to fill at second base, and so far, Brian Roberts has not done an adequate job of filling them. Roberts went 3-for-5 in the series opener with Tampa Bay and was a home run short of the cycle, but that game was sandwiched in between six hitless nights. The second baseman essentially has had two good games; the opener in St. Petersburg and another three-hit performance in a loss to the Astros on April 2. Aside from those two games, Roberts has just one hit in 36 plate appearances.

– Johnson began the season on a strong note, hitting .286/.342/.657 with six extra-base hits in his first 11 contests, but he’€™s fallen off lately. The infielder is just 2-for-his-last-18 with just one hit going for extra bases (a double) and has driven in just one run since April 13.

– Utility man Dean Anna hasn’€™t been able to do very much at the plate (aside from a bases-loaded walk in the 12th inning of Sunday’€™s contest), going hitless in his last 10 plate appearances and putting up a .136/.200/.318 line through 11 games. But the rookie has contributed in other ways, including mop-up duty. Anna made his professional debut on the mound in the eighth inning of the 16-1 debacle, allowing two runs on three hits in an inning. Anna didn’€™t have much to work with, but his mid-60s curveball got Sean Rodriguez and David DeJesus to pop out to the infield.

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