Published On: Tue, May 8th, 2018

Red Sox-Yankees: Who has the edge at each position?

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This is truly a heavyweight battle.

The two best teams in baseball will meet in the Bronx for a three-game series beginning Tuesday, with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees separated by just a single game in the standings.

The opener will represent the first time the two longtime rivals will play each other when occupying the two best records in the majors since 2002, and if the opening series at Fenway Park that featured a benches-clearing brawl was any indication, this series should be as good as advertised.

Here’s how the two teams stack up at each position, and who has the advantage:

Catcher


Gary Sanchez vs. Christian Vazquez

Sanchez has certainly had his issues receiving the ball behind the plate, but he’s arguably the best power-hitting catcher in the majors. In 30 games, Sanchez is slashing .198/.279/.500 with nine home runs, eight doubles, and 28 RBIs. He’s also done damage against Boston, hitting .282/.318/.621 with 12 home runs in 29 games.

After a breakout season where he reached career highs in average (.290), on-base percentage (.330), slugging (.404), and home runs (5), Vazquez has seen a significant dip in his offensive production. Entering Tuesday, he’s hitting just .193/.253/.239 with four doubles, no home runs, and 15 strikeouts.

Pick: Gary Sanchez

First base


Neil Walker/Tyler Austin vs. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland

Losing Greg Bird was tough for the Yankees, and Neil Walker hasn’t exactly given them much since filling in at first base. In 25 games, Walker has yet to homer and has 21 strikeouts to go with just three extra-base hits. Austin has been much better, belting five homers and six doubles in 20 games while hitting .254/.329/.549 and could receive the bulk of playing time in the series with the Red Sox rolling out two left-handed starters.

Ramirez has been the middle-of-the-order presence this season that the Red Sox missed from him so much last year. Though he’s only homered three times and none in his last 75 at-bats, Ramirez is slashing .297/.366/.432 and his shoulders look completely healthy. Manager Alex Cora will need to find a way to keep getting Moreland at-bats. In 24 games, he’s hitting .347/.407/.653 with five home runs, seven doubles, and just 12 strikeouts. Using Moreland at first, Ramirez at DH, and J.D. Martinez in left field while moving Jackie Bradley Jr. to the bench looks to be the best lineup for the Red Sox right now.

Pick: Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland

Second base


Gleyber Torres vs. Eduardo Nunez

Torres has given the Yankees the jolt they needed. Since his call-up at the end of April, he’s hitting .327/.357/.500 with two homers – including Sunday’s walk off – while solidifying the position defensively.

The Red Sox need Dustin Pedroia back. While Nunez was an exceptional deadline addition last year, he’s hitting just .229/.260/.364 in 30 games this season. He doesn’t look fully recovered from a knee injury suffered late last year either, making him one of the worst defensive second basemen in the majors.

Pick: Gleyber Torres

Third base


Miguel Andujar vs. Rafael Devers

Andujar has settled in nicely after Brandon Drury landed on the disabled list, hitting .274/.291/.491 with 12 doubles and three home runs in 27 games. The power numbers are certainly encouraging, but Andujar could do a better job at drawing walks (2.7 percent of PAs) and getting on base more consistently.

Devers’ bat continues to be a major source of offense as the 21-year-old is slashing .260/.308/.458 with six homers and eight doubles in 33 games, though his inconsistent defense has given the Red Sox some trouble. Despite showing the ability that he can be an everyday third baseman in the majors, his eight errors are the most at the position.

Pick: Rafael Devers

Shortstop


Didi Gregorius vs. Xander Bogaerts

While he’s cooled off significantly – 5-for-32 with no home runs over his last eight games – Gregorius has still been a force early on and leads all shortstops with 2.3 WAR. Gregorius has been especially potent at home, slashing .365/.481/.857 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in 18 games at Yankee Stadium.

Bogaerts was on an offensive tear of his own before landing on the DL, and like Gregorius, he enters the series cold. After hitting over .400 with 11 extra bases in 12 games in April, Bogaerts is hitting .167/.231/.250 with no home runs in six games in May.

Pick: Didi Gregorius

Outfield


Brett Gardner/Aaron Hicks/Aaron Judge vs.
Andrew Benintendi/Jackie Bradley Jr./Mookie Betts

Watching Betts and Judge go head to head in these matchups will be fun. They sit second and fourth, respectively, in WAR and are two of the game’s biggest stars. The rest of the outfield is off to a slow start. Bradley Jr. is hitting .178 with 28 strikeouts, while Gardner is batting .182 with no extra-base hits against lefty pitching this season. Benintendi and Hicks have been a little better, though each are having down seasons. Given Boston’s ability to neutralize Judge throughout his career (17-for-84 .202), the Red Sox get the advantage.

Pick: Red Sox

Designated hitter


Giancarlo Stanton vs. J.D. Martinez

Expected to crush the ball at Yankee Stadium, the Bronx has not been kind to Stanton. He’s hitting just .176/.262/.324 with three long balls and two doubles while striking out in 44.5 percent of his at-bats at home.

Martinez, on the other hand, has been every bit as good as advertised. He’s given the Red Sox the middle-of-the-order power they desperately needed, hitting eight home runs in 32 games while slashing .349/.396/.619. In 10 games at Yankee Stadium, Martinez has three homers and a .981 OPS.

Pick: J.D. Martinez

Starting pitchers


Luis Severino/Masahiro Tanaka/CC Sabathia vs.
Drew Pomeranz/David Price/Rick Porcello

The Red Sox hung 11 runs off 12 hits on Severino and Tanaka earlier this season at Fenway, and the duo enter the series both with an ERA north of 4.00 for their careers against Boston. However, Sabathia was especially tough on Boston last season, going 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in four starts. The Red Sox have struggled against left-handers again this season, posting the third-worst OPS in the majors.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have feasted off southpaws, posting the second-highest OPS in the AL. That’s bad news for Pomeranz and Price, who have both struggled coming into their starts. Pomeranz has allowed at least three runs in each of his three starts, while Price owns an 8.47 ERA over his last 17 innings and was shelled for four runs in just one inning against the Yankees in April before exiting with a tingling sensation in his pitching hand. Porcello has looked even better than when he won the Cy Young in 2016. He also shut the Yankees out over seven innings the last time these two hooked up, surrendering just two hits.

Pick: Yankees

Bullpen


After getting off to a slow start, the Yankees’ bullpen is now as efficient as projected. Over the last two weeks their relief core owns a 2.68 ERA with 59 strikeouts across 43 2/3 innings. Closer Aroldis Chapman has allowed just three runs in 15 innings this season and has yet to give up a home run – he has walked 12 Red Sox in 11 2/3 career innings, however.

The Red Sox don’t possess the big strikeout arms the Yankees have, but they’ve still found a way to be dominant. Boston’s relievers own the sixth-best ERA and best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors over the last 30 days. Joe Kelly has emerged as a solid eighth-inning arm, having not allowed a run in his last 14 innings, while Craig Kimbrel is as unhittable as always.

Pick: Yankees



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