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Red Sox-Yankees series preview

08.01.14 at 12:16 pm ET
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When the Red Sox take the field to begin a three-game series against the Yankees Friday night, they’ll be a team unrecognizable to many in attendance.

The Sox made four trades Thursday before the 4 p.m. deadline, shipping off five players and adding three major league-ready talents who are expected to be in uniform this weekend.

That means the Red Sox‘ lineup will not only look new, but may be improved as well. Slugger Yoenis Cespedes, whom the Red Sox acquired from Oakland for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, and Allen Craig, obtained from the Cardinals for John Lackey, could be in the starting lineup as soon as Friday. General manager Ben Cherington said they will man the corner outfield positions.

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks also will be back after missing over two months with a broken finger. Rookie Xander Bogaerts will move back to shortstop after Stephen Drew was traded to none other than the visiting Yankees. To top it all off, the Sox called up pitcher Anthony Ranaudo to pitch Friday, which was when Lackey was scheduled to start, in his major league debut.

There’s no telling whether or not the change will be good for the Red Sox yet, but it’s clear things can’t get much worse for them. The Sox have lost eight of their last nine games after being swept by the Blue Jays in a three-game set a Fenway Park this week. The Red Sox were outscored 24-4 in the three games, which included a 14-1 beatdown in Monday’s opener, in a week full of distraction and trade rumors. The sweep put the Sox 12 1/2 back in the AL East and 11 back in the wild card.

The Yankees, whom the Red Sox are 4-6 against this season after taking two out of three at Yankee Stadium June 27-29, had a much quieter deadline than their rivals. New York acquired Drew for the injured Kelly Johnson in the first swap between the two teams since 1997. Drew is expected to play second base while Derek Jeter mans shortstop.

What the Yankees could’ve used was some pitching to aid their depleted rotation, which has lost a number of key players, including standout Japanese rookie Masahiro Tanaka. Instead, New York has tried filling that void with the likes of Chris Capuano, who was designated for assignment by the Red Sox earlier this season, and rookie Shane Greene, both of whom will start this weekend.

The Yankees are coming off a pair of series losses after dropping two of three against the Blue Jays and the Rangers. The losses put the Yankees five games out of the division lead and 3 1/2 back in the wild card chase.

In a theme that will sound familiar to Red Sox fans, the Yankees have struggled in close games of late, unable to come up with the key hit to put them over the top.

“Every game that we lost was by two runs or one run and all but one of those [last 13] games was a one- or two-run game for either side,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So if we get the consistency in our offense, we’re going to win a lot more.”

Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game set.

Friday: Ranaudo vs. Capuano (1-1, 4.30 ERA)
Saturday: Allen Webster (1-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. Greene (2-1, 2.38 ERA)
Sunday: Clay Buchholz (5-7, 5.87 ERA) vs. David Phelps (5-5, 3.89 ERA)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

– The 2014 season has been as frustrating for Dustin Pedroia as anyone, , but he was one of the few with reason to feel good following the Toronto series. Pedroia has two hits in each of his last two games and has four multi-hit games in his last six. He’s hitting .385 in his last seven games to improve his average to .276 for the season, good for second on the team behind Brock Holt.

– There’s an opening at shortstop, and it may be Bogaerts’ for the taking. But more importantly for Bogaerts, he’s finally hitting the ball well again. The rookie has multiple hits in two straight games, the first time he’s done that since June 2-3. Bogaerts is on a five-game hitting streak and hitting .343 (12-for-35) since July 21.

WHO’S HOT: YANKEES

– Jeter may still be the face of the Yankees, but Brett Gardner is without a doubt the team’s biggest offensive threat. Gardner leads New York in batting average (.283), .OPS (.816) and runs (68) and has been one of the Yankees’ hottest bats as of late. Gardner was especially impressive in New York’s three-game series against the Rangers, going 8-for-14 with four home runs and two doubles. More known for his speed on the bases — he is second on the team with 17 steals — Gardner has seven home runs since July 1, the most he’s had in a one month span this season.

– Nobody had a better July for the Yankees than Francisco Cervelli. Cervelli has spent most of the season splitting time with Brian McCann at catcher, but he has seen more playing time in the last two weeks after riding a nine-game hitting streak. He hit .333/.350/.510 in 51 at-bats, more than he saw in the first three months combined. Cervelli has hit safely in 12 of his last 18 games.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

– Coming off back-to-back below average starts, Buchholz had his worst outing Monday since before going on the disabled list in May. He gave up seven runs, seven hits and four walks over five innings in an ugly 14-1 loss to the Blue Jays, dropping to 1-2 with a 7.94 ERA in his last three starts.

– Holt continues to see a significant decline in production. The super-utility player is hitless in four of his last five games, has three hits in his last 28 at-bats, and has seen his batting average drop 25 points since returning from the All-Star break. Holt has struck out in each of his last four games.

Jackie Bradley Jr. appeared to be in the midst of a turnaround at the plate, but he seems to be struggling again. Bradley is hitless in his last four games and is 3-for-27 in the last eight. He’s also struck out eight times since June 25.

WHO’S NOT: YANKEES

Jacoby Ellsbury may not be with the Red Sox anymore, but if he keeps hitting like he has of late, he will be more than welcomed by Sox fans in his return to Fenway Park this weekend. The center fielder is hitting .077 (2-for-26) in the last eight games, but looks to be on the right track after hitting a solo home run against the Rangers on Wednesday.

David Robertson has been strong for the Yankees in his first year as the team’s full-time closer, having blown just two of his 29 save opportunities this season. However, he’s looked shaky in his last two appearances, allowing three runs on five hits in his last two innings.

Read More: Brett Gardner, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, xander bogaerts
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