The Boston Red Sox (36-43) head back East with a stop in the Bronx to face the New York Yankees (40-37). Remember when fans used to get excited to watch these two heated rivals square off? Now they are two clubs loaded with aging veterans that have faded into mediocrity. The Yankees are fighting among a cluster of teams for the second Wild Card spot, while the Red Sox are fighting just to stay relevant.
Boston went 2-5 on their West Coast trip, but it ended with an encouraging win behind a returning Clay Buchholz. He gave up 4 runs (including 3 home runs), but his 7.1 innings was the longest outing of the season for Buchholz. Most importantly, he avoided walking a batter – a great sign considering his last start preceding his trip to the DL was a disaster that included a career high 8 walks.
The Yankees currently have a 5 game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East, but their -34 run differential isn't close to inductive of their record and is actually worse than Boston's (-31).
- Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88 ERA) will be on the mound for Boston. There was some question about what his role might be with Buchholz and Felix Doubront back in the fold, but Workman has earned his spot. He has a 3.22 ERA in his 5 starts and hasn't given up more than 3 runs in any of them. Despite saying earlier this week that Doubront would get another start in the upcoming series against the Chicago Cubs, Manager John Farrell backtracked today by saying he will instead leave Doubront in the bullpen until further notice. That bodes well for Workman's immediate future in the rotation.
- Still no word on what Rubby De La Rosa's role will be, but you get the feeling that if they are keeping him around rather than sending him back to Pawtucket then they must be planning to open a spot in the rotation for him. Jake Peavy may be down to his last chance, so if he isn't successful against the Cubs next week then he's a candidate to be traded or designated for assignment to free up a spot for De La Rosa.
- A.J. Pierzynski will get the start behind the plate, despite hitting .192 against lefties this season. The right-handed David Ross hasn't hit any better (against anyone), but at least he's an upgrade defensively. However, with on off day yesterday and Ross presumably slated to catch Jon Lester tomorrow, the Red Sox wanted to get Pierzynski in today to avoid having him sit for three straight days.
- So much for the idea that Shane Victorino could rejoin the team in New York this weekend. The veteran right fielder has once again had his rehab shut down, according to a report from CBS Sports. Victorino has played in only 21 games this season due to recurring hamstring issues.
- In a related story, Will Middlebrooks will miss his 5th straight game in Pawtucket due to a swollen index finger. The time off has allowed the Red Sox to reset his time clock for his rehab assignment, giving him extended time to get more at-bats.
- Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88 ERA) will be the starter for New York. The rookie has not found much success pitching in Yankee Stadium, posting an 0-3 record and 7.09 ERA at home. In fairness, that number is skewed by an ugly mop up appearance against Baltimore back in April where he surrendered 7 runs in 3.1 innings in a blow out loss prior to joining the rotation.
- Derek Jeter celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday. Despite his age, the Yankees continue to use him at short stop no matter how much it hurts their infield defense. His -0.1 DWAR is 4th worst in the majors among shortstops and his 3.43 Range Factor is the 2nd lowest. Jeter has basically been the worst defensive shortstop this side of Yunel Escobar. Despite that, don't expect the Yankees to move their Captain away from the only position he's ever known during his farewell tour season.