While the New York Yankees may have finished nine games ahead of their bitter rival, the Boston Red Sox, in the AL East standings in 2015, it appears as if the guard has changed hands since the two team concluded last year's campaign.
Hampered by a six-game losing streak, which ended with a 7-0 slaughtering of the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night, the embattled Yankees lost designated hitter Alex Rodriguez to the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring and outfielder Brett Gardner suffered a right elbow injury after being hit with a pitch, creating a media firestorm around a team which has began its season with a 9-17 record and a journey to the cellar of the division.
The Red Sox, however, have capitalized on the Yankees' misfortune thus far, catapulting to a 16-11 record and the honor of the top spot in the AL East with a three-game sweep of New York at Fenway Park last weekend.
Now, with the teams on the opposite ends of the spectrum as we venture into the month of May, the pair will square off yet again, this time at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Offenses in opposite direction
The stark differences between these two squads exists in the potency of their lineups. While Boston currently leads the American League with 140 runs, 267 hits, 68 doubles, nine triples, 422 total bases, 133 RBI, a .281 average, and a .342 on-base percentage, the Yankees rank dead last in the league in almost each of these critical categories entering Thursday night's slate of games.
New York has batted in just 83 runs while scoring just 89 runs in total, holding the bottom spot in the AL in both doubles (29) and total bases (300). Additionally, the Yankees rank fourth-to-last in average (.236) and on-base percentage (.308).
Each of these statistics underline the discrepancies between a team which has busted through the gates mashing the cover off of the baseball and a team which has struggled mightily to hit its stride at the plate.
While the Red Sox have been buoyed by the .321 average of shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the 36 hits by second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and the .311 average, .404 on-base percentage and six home runs by designated hitter David Ortiz, the Yankees have been brought down by disappointing performances by a few high-priced starters.
Third baseman Chase Headley, in the midst of a four-year/$52 million deal, has batted just .153 with two RBI thus far, receiving a benching for Thursday night's series finale in Baltimore.
Prior to his injury, Rodriguez had been hitting for a .194 average and .275 on-base percentage, while first baseman Mark Teixiera has batted just .224, shortstop Didi Gregorius has hit .221 with a putrid .247 OBP, and Gardner has hit for an underwhelming .247 average.
It appears as if the only hitters who have saved the Yankees lineup from absolute futility have been second baseman Starlin Castro (.284 average, 27 hits, three homers, 12 RBI) and catcher Brian McCann (.278 average, .381 on-base percentage, .812 OPS).
New York will need their bats to awaken as Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who has assumed the role as the rotation's de facto ace thus far, takes the mound on Friday night to open up the series.
After suffering through a brutal first four months of his tenure in Boston in 2015, Porcello pitched admirably in his final eight starts of the season and has carried that momentum into 2016. The 27-year-old owns a 5-0 record, 36 strikeouts, a 2.76 ERA, a .200 batting average against, and a stellar 0.92 WHIP on the season, having blanked the Yankees for seven innings of five-hit, six-strikeout ball in an 8-0 win last Saturday night at Fenway Park.
Facing Porcello for the home team will be right-hander Michael Pineda. The high-priced 27-year-old has been disappointing thus far, bringing his 6.33 ERA and 1-3 record into Friday night's matchup.
Over 27 innings of work, Pineda has garnered 30 strikeouts, a 1.59 WHIP, and a .304 BAA.