The Boston Red Sox (61-78) meet the New York Yankees (71-66) in the rubber match of their three game series.
New Jersey native Anthony Ranaudo always dreamed of playing in Yankee Stadium, but his first shot at pitching in the Bronx didn't go the way he pictured it would. He suffered his first career loss, giving up 3 runs in 5.1 innings – the shortest outing of any of his four starts in the big leagues.
The Yankees remain in the playoff chase, four games out of a Wild Card spot, but are tied with the Cleveland Indians and only half a game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. They would also have to leap over the Seattle Mariners, in addition to one of the teams currently holding a Wild Card spot (A's, Tigers) falling back. It's a steep mountain to climb with just over three weeks left in the season. If they can stay within striking distance heading into the final series of the season, their path to the postseason could depend on them going through the Red Sox.
- Brandon Workman (1-8, 4.93 ERA) returns to the Boston rotation for his first start since August 23. He was demoted to Triple-A after taking the loss in his 7th straight appearance. His time in Pawtucket was practically a mirror image, as he won his last 6 starts and was 7-1 overall at the Triple-A level. Boston will temporarily move to a six-man rotation in order to give all their young pitchers a chance to showcase themselves for a spot in next season's rotation.
- Allen Craig is 4-for-35 (.114) since joining the Red Sox. He does have a HR and two doubles among those four hits, but hits of any variety haven't been coming frequently enough. Yet he starts tonight in RF ahead of Daniel Nava, who leads the team with a .302 average since the break.
- Will Middlebrooks is back in the lineup after sitting out yesterday to recover from a 4-strikeout performance. The Red Sox have suggested to Middlebrooks that he play winter ball to get some more work at the plate to make up for all the time he's missed with injuries. Ultimately the decision is on the player, but it certainly seems like it would be in his best interest, given that third base seems to be up for grabs heading into next season.
- Mike Napoli leads the league in pitches per plate appearance (4.48). His patience at the plate is part of what makes him so good at getting on base (.371 OBP – 8th in the AL), but often finding himself in two-strike counts is also why he strikes out a lot (126 – 11th in the AL). Boston leads the majors in pitches per plate appearances as a team (4.05).
- Dustin Pedroia still needs to make it through a pre-game workout and pass one final medical check tomorrow, but he's expected to be back in the lineup tomorrow after recovering from a concussion.
- Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.24 ERA) gets the start for New York. The former Red Sox reliever was released back in June, but eventually made his way into New York's starting rotation after a rash of injuries left the depleted Yankees starved for arms. He's been able to go at least 6 innings in all but one of his 7 starts in pinstripes and carries a 4.01 ERA over that span. Hardly spectacular, but it's as much as the Yankees could have hoped for in picking from the scrap heap.
- Brian McCann delivered four hits last night, including the game-winning home run, to raise his season average to .244. That's still pretty disappointing for a player making $17 million per year – even for a catcher providing above-average defense. He's been worth 1.3 WAR this season, which is hardly living up to his contract – which he's only in Year One of. On the plus side, his 17 home runs puts him within reasonable distance of reaching 20+ home runs for the 7th straight season and he's recovered from a dreadful start to hit a more respectable .256 since the break. That has coincided with a recent power surge, as he's homered 7 times and added 5 doubles since the break.
Seeing your team play in the SuperBowl is priceless. Watching the SuperBowl live in the stands for $1 per week is beyond priceless. Find out how at TicketScore.com, the future of Championship Tickets. Tags: Allen Craig, Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, Brandon Workman, Chris Capuano, Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, MLB, Will Middlebrooks