Baseball is arguably at its best when we get elite divisional matchups and that’s certainly what MLB fans get on Monday evening. The Boston Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium in a huge battle with the AL East rival Yankees, as both teams try to create some distance in a very tight race for the top of the division.
The Yanks have been holding onto first place for pretty much all of 2017, and they’ll try to hold serve at home to nurse a two-game lead. New York has stayed the course over their last 10 games (5-5) and looks like a solid favorite at home, where their elite power has helped them dominate to the tune of a beastly 17-8 mark.
Boston won’t go quietly into the night, as the Red Sox have stormed back from a sluggish start by their standards and now look to rightfully be New York’s main competition atop the AL East. The Red Sox could overtake the division with a series win in New York and they have the offense and pitching to possibly make that happen. The Red Sox are just a little bit hotter than the Yanks at the moment (6-4 over their last 10 games) and are fresh off an intense series split (2-2) with the rival Orioles.
The Red Sox are a real threat to take down the Yanks here, but it’s worth wondering if they’ll end up being held back by their road struggles (14-15 away from Fenway Park in 2017). We get two strong pitchers toeing the rubber in this one, but in a hitter’s park with monster bats, it’s debatable that may not matter. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup and gauge which is the best angle to target this game:
Boston Red Sox (+105) @ New York Yankees (-115) Total: 9
Drew Pomeranz (5-3, 4.42 ERA) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 6.34 ERA)
Boston strolls in with volatile pitcher Drew Pomeranz hitting the mound and it’s fair to suggest we don’t know which version of their would-be elite arm will show up. Pomeranz has certainly flashed high strikeout upside in the past, but he’s also given up a ton of hard contact and has gotten absolutely rocked two different times in 2017.
Trusting Pomeranz isn’t easy, but we need to consider this from both sides. The 28-year old lefty has certainly been in better form lately, as he’s tabled 19 strikeouts in his last two contests combined and has done a great job managing games (2 or fewers runs allowed in four straight starts). The problems areas reside with Pomeranz’s contact given up in general, as well as a dip in his control on the road. A shaky 4.43 ERA away from home doesn’t help matters, while he’ll also be taking on a dangerous Yankees lineup that has put up 18 home runs against southpaws in 2017.
It’s not all bad for Pomeranz, of course. New York has not been elite against lefties all season (16th in batting average), so this could potentially be a matchup where they struggle a bit.
New York doesn’t always light up left-handed pitching, but their power knows no bounds. Even though they’re 12th in jacks versus southpaws, that’s just five dings from first place, while 16th in batting average against lefties is far from trash.
On the other side we get Masahiro Tanaka, who continues to be quite erratic in 2017. In some respects he’s not pitching badly, but the contact he’s allowing isn’t ideal and it’s actually been rather unforgiving. Tanaka delivered an absolute gem two starts ago (13 Ks), but that proved to be a profound aberration with the 28-year old righty being shelled for a combined for a ridiculous 21 runs in three of his last four starts.
At the very best, Tanaka has become completely unreliable, giving us two very talented pitchers who can dominate any game, but also will be taking on elite offenses in a bad park for pitching (3rd in home run rate). It doesn’t add up for Tanaka, who is handing in his best ball at Yankee Stadium on average, yet still owns a gross 5.34 ERA in his home park. Adding to the trouble in Boston’s strong ranking (7th) i batting average against right-handed hurlers. The power hasn’t been the same for Boston, but in this park and given the hard contact Tanaka is allowing, that may not matter.
Ultimately, this is one of the more intense rivalries in all of baseball and both teams are stacked. We could go either way, so instead of picking a side, we should rely on what we know; the park promotes scoring, both of these offenses can crush the ball and neither pitcher is necessarily stable. We got burned by the Nats and Dodgers not hitting the Over last night, but here it feels silly not to attack the Total. Either team can cover the Over all on their own in any given game and tonight is no exception. The pitching is cause for pause, but depending on where you bet, you can find serious value (+105) in aiming high. We intend to do that and we’ll rate this a 4 out of 5 in terms of confidence.