By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox and Yankees renew their rivalry Friday night at Fenway Park.
Boston and New York clash in the ALDS, their first postseason meeting since the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 series hole in the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox won the regular season series 10-9, and this series is pegged to be just as close.
Both teams have incredible offenses that can hit the crud out of the ball, but we all know winning in the postseason comes down to pitching. Both teams have their question marks on that front, especially Boston. Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello have exactly zero postseason wins between them. And with Boston’s underwhelming bullpen, the pressure is on the starters to give Alex Cora 6-7 quality innings whenever they take the mound. Given their playoff history, that is no guarantee.
Here are the pitching matchups for the first four games of the series:
Game 1: Friday, 7:32 p.m. at Fenway Park
J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA)
Sale says he’s ready to go after battling shoulder issues for much of the second half of the season. Both he and the Red Sox are confident he’ll be back to form when he toes the rubber in Game 1 on Friday night, looking for his first career win in the postseason.
The lanky lefty dominated the Yankees in the regular season, going 2-0 while allowing just one run (an Aaron Judge solo homer) over 13 innings. In those 13 innings, Sale struck out 19 Yankees. He was lights out.
Meanwhile, Happ has been just as filthy since arriving in New York at the trade deadline, going 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA for the Yankees. He tossed a gem against the Sox on Sept. 18 in New York, giving them six innings of one-run ball in a 3-2 Yankees win (he got a no decision). The Red Sox did hit him for four runs over six innings last week, but the Yankees won 11-6 and he earned a victory for that one.
Don’t be surprised is Steve Pearce makes it into Boston’s lineup on Friday. He’s 11-for-32 in his career against Happ with six homers and 16 RBIs.
Mookie Betts also put together a pretty good at-bat against Happ earlier this season when the lefty was still on the Blue Jays:
Time to party again?
Both teams have terrifying offenses, but if these pitchers are locked in, we’re in for quite the duel.
Game 2: Saturday, 8:15 p.m. at Fenway Park
Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.75 ERA) vs. David Price (16-7, 3.58 ERA)
This is the biggest start of Price’s career. He’s yet to win a playoff game as a starter, a rain cloud that follows him whenever October rolls around. Maybe this is the year he finally breaks through, but Price has been brutal against the Yankees in a Red Sox uniform. This season, he was 0-3 and allowed 18 runs and nine homers (NINE HOMERS!) in 15.2 innings against New York.
All will be forgiven with Boston fans (well, most will be forgiven) if he tosses a beaut Saturday night. Price did not look great in his final regular season tuneup, but he went 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA over 11 starts following the All-Star break.
But as bad as Price was against the Yankees, Tanaka wasn’t any better against the Red Sox. He gave up 16 runs off 29 hits, including six that left the yard, over 19 innings. He made it to the sixth inning in just one of his four starts against Boston.
J.D. Martinez has feasted on Tanaka, going 8-for-18 with three homers, two doubles and eight RBIs against the righty. This one could get out of hand and end sometime around 6 a.m. on Sunday.
Game 3: Monday, 7:40 p.m. at Yankee Stadium
Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.28 ERA) vs. Luis Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA)
Porcello led the Boston staff with 17 wins in the regular season, and he fared pretty well against the Yankees. He tossed seven shutout innings in his first start against them, and then needed just 86 pitches to go the distance against the Yanks in a 4-1 Boston win in early August. The one time the Yankees roughed him up was in New York, plating five runs in 5.1 innings.
But in his two trips to the playoffs with Boston, Porcello is winless with a 7.56 ERA. That has to improve, and he’ll have to try to do it on the road. But he was actually better away from Fenway Park in the regular season, going 10-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 18 starts. He gave up just 10 homers on the road, compared to 17 in his 15 starts at Fenway.
Severino will get the for New York. He struck out seven A’s over four shutout innings in the AL Wild Card game Wednesday night. He went 2-2 against the Sox this season, giving up 29 hits and walking 10 over 30.1 innings. He also struck out Boston batters 31 times, so he’s a bit of a mixed bag. Talented, yes, but a mixed bag.
Severino had a solid season winning 19 games and striking out 220, but posted a 5.57 ERA in his 12 starts after the All-Star break. Andrew Benintendi has hit him hard, going 11-for 27 with three doubles, a triple and two homers against the New York righty.
Game 4: Tuesday, 7:40 p.m. at Yankee Stadium
Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.81 ERA) vs. C.C. Sabathia (9-7, 3.65 ERA)
Alex Cora will send Nathan Eovaldi to the hill if there is a Game 4 in New York, and the righty has had success against the Yankees. He’s 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in four career starts against New York, and he tossed eight shutout innings against them back on Aug. 4 in a 4-1 Boston win at Fenway. He followed that up with six shutout innings in New York on Sept. 18, so he appears to be the right man for the job.
He has plenty of experience pitching in Yankee Stadium too, having spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons in the New York rotation. Eovaldi is 10-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 26 games (25 starts) in New York.
The Sox will have to deal with Sabathia if the series reaches a Game 4. The 38-year-old was 1-0 against Boston in his three starts against them during the regular season, though they did score seven runs off him in his 14 innings.
Sabathia was solid at Yankee Stadium this season, going 6-3 with a 3.12 ERA in the Bronx (he was 3-4 with a 4.23 ERA on the road).