Though the division race would appear to be almost wrapped up for the New York Yankees in the AL East with just over 100 games played this season, they certainly will not want complacency to set in just yet, and the upcoming 4-game series with their bitter rivals at Fenway Park is set up to be a cracker.
In the first match-up between the two giants of baseball since the Yankees won both games on British soil in the 2019 London Series last month, motivation will be sky-high ahead of this weekend for the Red Sox as they are coming into it very much in the hunt for a wildcard spot in the American League, with a postseason return top of the agenda for the group that won it all last season.
Alex Cora has spoken of the importance of winning before the trade deadline and – while this may seem an obvious statement at any point of the season – good form at this time of year without question sets any team up for success for the remainder of the season.
They have generally responded well following the London Series disappointment, going 12-7 despite two obvious wasted opportunities against the Orioles at Camden Yards, and will like their chances of continuing their useful recent form which has seen them overhaul the Tampa Bay Rays into 2nd place in the division. However, Boston did drop the final game of their latest series with Tampa under protest in controversial circumstances.
In terms of an update from the Bronx, New York come into the series having gone 12-7 since the London Series, solidifying their position atop the AL East division and asserting themselves as a true force to fear in the World Series race come October.
They arrive at Fenway on the back of a truly enthralling hitter-dominated 3-game series with the Minnesota Twins, with whom they shared a massive 57 runs on 80 hits including a dramatic extra innings comeback on Tuesday evening, winning 14-12 after trailing 9-5 through 7 innings and overcoming a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the 10th inning. They have also emphatically had Boston’s number this season up to now, going 6-1 up to now in such games.
Pitching this series is, as always, set to be of huge importance, and it will be fascinating to see how Rick Porcello and Masahiro Tanaka respond on Thursday in his first appearance against this Yankees lineup since that first inning blowout in London where both offences were able to get runs on the board early. Much has been made of the ballpark layout in London, and we of course should not expect anything like that level of production in this series. However, it will be interesting to see how deep the starters go into these games, not just in the aforementioned opening match up but throughout the series.
In terms of the hitters, two to watch will be Rafael Devers for the Red Sox and Didi Gregorius for the Yankees. That stacked Yankees lineup will always be a threat one through nine in the order; however Gregorius has overcome some early season injury issues and has begun to hit form, with 8 hits in his last 10 ABs. For Devers, his defence has at times been questioned this season but he has hit well this year with an OPS of .939 on the season, and his contributions will certainly be interesting.
I am lucky enough to be at Fenway Park on Thursday and am looking forward to what will doubtlessly be an intriguing and exciting series opener. Will runs continue to reign supreme in games involving the Yankees? Or will their pitching staff wrestle back some control? It will be fascinating to see.