Desperate Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium to try and build momentum before the break – The Mercury News

The Yankees are mired, if you can call it that, in the worst stretch of their season.

After losing two of three against a Cincinnati team whose front office is actively not trying to win, the Yankees have dropped four out of five games for the second time this season. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and have not won any of their last three series. Standing between them and the All-Star break though, perhaps luckily, are the Boston Red Sox, a team that also finds themselves in a bad way.

Boston is 2-8 over their last ten and were outscored 22-12 by the Rays in a four-game sweep. While the Red Sox can all but forget about winning the American League East, they are still right in the thick of the wild card hunt. The Red Sox tromp into Yankee Stadium for this three-game set in a tie for the third spot. Putting together a trio of good games against the pinstripes not only sends them into the break on a nice high, it also likely boosts them in the standings.

The Red Sox have played the Yankees tough this season. Though the Yankees own the upper hand in the season series, having taken four of the seven contests, four of the games have been decided by one run. Coming off the embarrassment of getting swept, plus knowing that the Yankees are scuffling a bit, look for the Red Sox to come out swinging.

As motivated as they may be, this is a squad with some massive question marks hovering over them, both for the season-long outlook and this series in the Bronx. Two of the Red Sox probable pitchers — Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale — have been extremely limited this year. But this is the most critical juncture of the Red Sox’s schedule thus far, and they’re prepared to throw Eovaldi on Friday and Sale on Sunday against Gerrit Cole.

Eovaldi went on the injured list on June 12 with back troubles, something the Red Sox thought would require nothing more than a brief trip to the IL. He’s ended up missing more than a month as the issue turned out to be nerve-related, affecting his hip as well. But Eovaldi is now ready to go for his Friday night start at Yankee Stadium, an interesting choice given that the team will soon have four days off for the All-Star break. Bringing him back for this tilt against the Yankees sends a clear message: the Red Sox can’t afford to go much longer without their best players.

Sale had essentially two years wiped out as he recovered from Tommy John surgery and was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib during spring training. Following an extensive rehab process that included his famous his, rage-induced destruction of a minor league stadium, Sale made his first MLB start on Tuesday, shutting the Rays out for five innings. Sunday will mark his first appearance his at Yankee Stadium since Aug. 3, 2019, when he was hammered for eight runs in 3.2 innings.

It has been evident for years now that Sale is not the pitcher he once was. Pride will obviously play a big part in this, as Sale is a seven-time All-Star who’s finished in the top five of Cy Young voting six times and owns the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio of all-time. But depending on how his next starts go, it may be time for him to settle into a bullpen role. His velocity his was trending downward in 2019 before electing to get Tommy John, and missing as much time as he has would be difficult for any pitcher to bounce back from, even one of his caliber his.

The problem is, the rest of the Red Sox’s pitching rotation has also been decimated by injury. Part of the reason why Eovaldi and Sale are making starts during this series is because Boston manager Alex Cora just flat out doesn’t have many other options. Pitchers Rich Hill (sprained knee), Michael Wacha (shoulder inflammation), Garrett Whitlock (hip inflammation), Josh Winckowski (COVID-19) and Connor Seabold (strained forearm) are all on the shelf right now. Three relievers who figured to be big parts of the equation this year — Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Tyler Danish — are not able to answer the bell right now either. James Paxton, who the Red Sox signed in free agency knowing he ‘d have to repair his arm his after his own Tommy John surgery, has not pitched for them at all.

In short, the Red Sox are teetering on the brink of disaster. In choosing to rely on two pitchers that have combined to throw five big-league innings in the past month, the desperation is clear as day. Mix in the fact that their starting center fielder Enrique Hernandez is also out with a groin issue, big bopper JD Martinez is slugging a minuscule .327 in his last 115 plate appearances, and the defense has committed 10 errors in July alone, and the Red Sox are in danger of slipping into mediacrity.

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