Yankees-Red Sox Preview
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi says Masahiro Tanaka is improving every time out, though a true test may come against a Boston Red Sox team that has knocked him around.
While Boston's David Ortiz begins his final season in this rivalry, the Yankees hope to avoid their 11th loss in 15 games and continue their recent dominance at Fenway Park on Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.
“(Many of these players) don't have the history against each other, but I still think when you get in that ballpark and you're a Yankee and they're a Red Sox, the feeling comes right away,” Girardi told the league's official website.
Girardi feels Tanaka (1-0, 2.92 ERA) is making strides after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow in October. He's allowed two earned runs in each of his four starts and has pitched seven innings in the last two.
The right-hander hopes to build on what was his best performance Saturday. He gave up five hits while striking out seven and walking one over seven innings in a 3-2 walkoff win over Tampa Bay.
“He's giving us more distance every start, which is important,” Girardi added.
Tanaka, however, is looking to overcome some recent woes against the Red Sox. Though he's been bailed out by lofty run support on a couple of occasions, Tanaka hasn't made it through seven innings while posting a 7.13 ERA in his last five meetings. He also surrendered a home run in all four last season.
Dustin Pedroia is 5 for 13 with two doubles off Tanaka. The star second baseman is also batting .436 with nine extra-base hits and 10 RBIs over his last eight games.
Ortiz, who is 4 for 15 with a home run and two doubles when facing Tanaka, is batting .308 with 52 homers and 175 RBIs in 238 games – including the playoffs – against New York (8-12). The retiring slugger has gone 10 for 31 with six doubles over his last eight overall.
The Red Sox (12-10) try to bounce back after their four-game winning streak came to an end in Thursday's 5-3 home loss to Atlanta. However, they've dropped 11 of the past 14 against the Yankees at Fenway.
New York's Carlos Beltran is batting .371 with four home runs and 13 RBIs over a 15-game hitting streak at Boston in regular-season play, while Brett Gardner is batting .364 with 12 RBIs over an 11-game hit streak there.
The Yankees are looking to continue that trend after averaging 2.4 runs and hitting .221 while dropping 10 of 14.
Boston starter Henry Owens will try to regroup after allowing three runs, five hits and four walks over 3 1/3 innings in Sunday's 7-5, 12-inning win at Houston in his season debut.
The left-hander has opposed Tanaka each time in two meetings with the Yankees, allowing 10 runs and 11 hits over 6 2/3 innings in a pair of defeats. He lasted a career-low 1 2/3 innings while giving up a career high-tying seven runs in the most recent home matchup in September.
“It should be fun,” Owens said. “It's a rematch. It's Tanaka again, so that should be good. Hopefully, I get a little redemption.”