Prior to Thursday, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees hadn’t met since April 10.
So much has changed since the Red Sox salvaged the last of three games in New York on that date.
The Yankees have surged to the top of the major leagues, becoming the first team to 60 wins with their 6-5 triumph on Thursday in Boston. At the same time, the Red Sox remain in wild-card contention thanks in large part to a 20-6 June.
The four-game series between the archrivals continues on Friday, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora knows that every game from here on out will be a measuring stick.
“We won 45 games in the first half and we know where we’re at in the standings and what we have to do,” Cora said leading into the series. “Obviously, disappointed that this is the way we’ve been playing in the division, but we know we can hang with them, we can play better baseball and we can start winning games.”
The Red Sox have work to do. After losing two of three to the Tampa Bay Rays earlier this week, they are 0-8 in series against American League East opponents this season.
Boston third baseman Rafael Devers did his part Thursday, hitting two home runs in a game for the second time this season and driving in all five runs off Yankees starter Gerrit Cole.
“The stage, he doesn’t get caught up in the whole thing,” Cora said. “He enjoys playing baseball and helping his team to win. Probably down there he’s upset that we didn’t win. He did everything.”
Friday’s game marked the first of two original “TBA” slots in Boston’s rotation. It will be filled with right-hander Connor Seabold (0-1, 8.31 ERA), as Michael Wacha could be headed to the injured list with what Cora called “dead arm” earlier this week.
Left-hander Nestor Cortes (7-3, 2.44 ERA) is set to take the ball for New York, making his second career start against the Red Sox. In seven overall appearances vs. Boston, he has no decisions and an 8.16 ERA.
Cortes is coming off a Saturday win at Cleveland in which he struck out six across six innings of three-hit, one-run ball. It was his first victory since June 15 as he had allowed three and four runs in his two prior starts.
Despite posting a mediocre 4.15 ERA in June, Cortes is happy with his current form.
“My body is in a good place,” said Cortes, who had a 1.50 ERA over his first 10 starts. “My arm is in a good place. Mentally, I’m good. It’s a matter of riding the wave.”
His only start against Boston came on Sept. 25, 2021, when he allowed two runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings during a no-decision.
Seabold has three major league appearances (all starts) but none against the Yankees. He had a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox last September, lost to the Toronto Blue Jays on June 27 and then had a no-decision against the Cubs on Sunday, when he gave up one run in four innings.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone expects his team will see the best side of the Red Sox throughout the weekend.
“It’s not surprising they’re playing well and they’re putting themself right back in the middle of the race,” Boone said this week. “I think they’re just reverting back to their baseball card as a team, who they are.”
New York first baseman Anthony Rizzo (back soreness) and center fielder/designated hitter Aaron Judge (lower-body soreness) were both out of Thursday’s lineup. The Yankees made up for it thanks to back-to-back homers by Josh Donaldson — a grand slam — and Aaron Hicks in the third inning.
Boone hopes Judge will be set to return on Friday.
–Field Level Media