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Red Sox-Yankees series preview

06.27.14 at 12:59 pm ET
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The Red Sox had a chance to reset after playing 36 games in 37 days, while going without an off day since June 5. It was an ugly start to the road trip, with the Sox dropping three of four in Oakland and two of three in Seattle, but they left Seattle on a positive note Wednesday, scoring five runs and holding on to win in a one-run contest.

Those one-run games haven’€™t seemed to be going the Red Sox‘€™ way lately. They’€™re 13-17 overall in one-run games, but they dropped a couple of close games in Oakland (two were one-run losses, one was a two-run margin).

Clay Buchholz made his return on Wednesday in Seattle, which leaves the Red Sox with seven healthy and capable starters — a good problem to have. But their offensive reinforcements who are on the mend have hit road bumps; Shane Victorino has been shut down indefinitely due to discomfort in his back, while Will Middlebrooks has been dealing with swelling in his fractured finger.

The Red Sox own the worst OPS in the American League this month with a .653 mark, but rank sixth in the league with a 3.72 staff ERA in June.

The bad news for the Red Sox is that they sit eight games back of the division-leading Blue Jays. The good news is that no team has run away with the division, at least not yet. The Yankees occupy third place, remaining three games behind the pace, but just three games above .500 at 40-37.

The Yankees hit a four-game skid earlier this week, running into two hot divisional rivals as both the Blue Jays and the Orioles took two of three from New York. But the Yankees were able to salvage the last game of the set with the Blue Jays on Wednesday, as Hiroki Kuroda delivered a solid performance and the offense was able to come up with five runs, including three RBIs from Mark Teixeira and a four-run third inning.

“The whole dugout was excited about those four runs,” Teixeira told MLB.com. “It had been a while since we had a lead.”

The Yankees and the Red Sox have met seven times already this season, with the Yankees taking five of those contests.

Here are the pitching match ups for the three-game weekend set.

Friday: Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88) vs. Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88)
Saturday: Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11)
Sunday: John Lackey (8-5, 3.45) vs. Chase Whitley (3-1, 4.07)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

— Now over a month into Brock Holt‘€™s second stint with the Red Sox (and first in a starting role) this season, the 26-year-old still is batting .319 with a .353 OBP since May 17. He’€™s amassed an .809 OPS on the season, which ranks as second highest amongst Red Sox regulars. Not only is he 15-for-50 with four extra-base hits over his last 12 games, he’€™s played five different positions over that span and has looked solid regardless of where he’€™s playing.

Daniel Nava continues to show signs that his swing is coming back around. The outfielder owns a four-game mini-hit streak, and is hitting .412 with a .474 OBP over his last six games. Since coming back from the minors, Nava is batting .373/.458/.431 in 18 games. Regular playing time might be helping Nava rediscover the swing that allowed him to hit over .300 for the Red Sox in 2013; he’€™s started in eight of the Red Sox’€™ last 10 contests.

— The short stay on the disabled list seemed to have rejuvenated Mike Napoli. Since being activated on June 8, the first baseman is batting .323 with four home runs and a pair of doubles. Despite the overall lack of offense from the Red Sox on the West Coast road trip, Napoli‘€™s been productive, going 8-for-22 with a couple of RBIs.

WHO’€™S HOT: YANKEES

— As the Red Sox outfield struggles to find any consistent offensive production, former Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has been raking for the Yankees lately. Though he hasn’t displayed the power he’€™s shown glimpses of in the past, Ellsbury has been getting on base plenty, going 11-for-31 over his last eight games. Over his last 28 games he’€™s hitting .330 with a .398 OBP. The speedster has swiped 21 bases, which easily ranks as the most on the club.

— Though he’€™s 40 years old, Ichiro Suzuki isn’t showing too many signs of his age. Though he had a down year in 2013, the outfielder is back to being an on-base machine, hitting .308/.363/.336 through 64 games. The problem is that Suzuki has been pretty much a strictly singles hitter, with just four extra-base hits (all doubles) on the season.

— The Yankees bullpen has been inconsistent, but Dellin Betances, who has pitched his way into a set-up role, has brought some stability. The 26-year-old had only pitched a total of 7 2/3 innings in the majors before this season with subpar results. But he’€™s compiled a 1.43 ERA through 44 innings in 2014, and has been striking out a ridiculous average of over 14 1/2 batters per nine innings. His 72 strikeouts ranks as the most (by a wide margin) in the majors amongst relievers. And even while fanning as many batters as he has, he’€™s kept his walks to a decent 2.7 per nine innings. Betances has allowed just seven runs and 20 hits in 32 appearances.

WHO’€™S NOT: RED SOX

A.J. Pierzynski is a noted streaky hitter, and he’€™s currently mired in an ugly slump. The catcher is hitting just .169 with three extra-base hits this month, with only two multi-hit games during that span (although one came during the series finale vs. the Mariners). Pierzynski’€™s .644 OPS ranks as second-to-last among catchers with more than 200 at-bats this season.

— With 14 games and over 50 plate appearances under his belt, Stephen Drew seemingly can’€™t shake off the rust. He’€™s got just six hits in his 49 at-bats this season, has drawn two walks and has fanned 13 times. He’€™s posted an anemic .122/.157/.163 line and has gone hitless in his last seven games (25 plate appearances). He hasn’t reached base since June 17.

— With the way that Koji Uehara has been pitching over the last two seasons, even a small bump in the road can seem like a slump. Uehara blew his first save of the season on Sunday in Oakland (a game in which he’€™d later get the win), giving up a pair of solo home runs. That came just two appearances after he allowed a run to the Twins in extra innings but was able to secure the win in that contest as well. Things got interesting on Wednesday night as Uehara allowed a couple of baserunners in the ninth, but he was able to earn his 16th save of the year.

WHO’€™S NOT: YANKEES

— It seems as though Yangervis Solarte has finally come down to earth. The rookie, who batted .317/.394/.493 through his first 40 games of the season, has slumped considerably in his last 27 contests. He’€™s hit just .184 with five extra-base knocks since May 22, bringing his line on the season down to a more modest .266/.346/.403. He has just two hits in his last 32 at-bats, though he still draws plenty of walks, with five free passes in that span.

— While Ellsbury, the Yankees’ biggest free agent signing of the offseason, has been working out just about as well as the team could have hoped, a couple of other new Yankees are struggling in their first year with the club. Carlos Beltran has struggled in his age-37 season, batting just .218 with an unusually low OBP (.277). He’€™s clubbed seven home runs (with his most recent one coming in walkoff fashion last week), but has totaled just two hits in his last 20 plate appearances.

Brian McCann, another free agent signing over the winter, also has struggled at the plate, posting a .223.,284/.360 line through 70 games. He’€™s hit eight home runs but is slugging just .360. The catcher has put together a couple of multi-hit performances lately, but he’€™s batting just .194 over his last nine games. Although McCann may not be living up to his potential offensively, he’€™s looked strong behind the plate, at least when it comes to controlling the running game. He’€™s thrown out 41 percent of runners this season, well above both the league average (27 percent) and his career average (24 percent).

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