Heading into their weekend set with the New York Yankees, who entered the set coming off of a blustery stretch in which they dropped seven of eight contests, the last thing the first-place Boston Red Sox expected was to be facing a potential sweep as the page turned to Sunday night.
Yankees bats awakening during series
However, so is the case following an 8-2 Yankees triumph on Saturday afternoon in which Red Sox free agent splash David Price yielded six earned runs on seven hits and three walks in 4.2 innings work, pushing his ERA to 6.75, the highest out of any pitcher with at least 40 innings of work logged thus far.
New York entered the series with the most impotent offensive attack in the American League, and Boston's starting pitcher in Friday's matchup, Rick Porcello, continued to expose the Yankees deficiencies in that category through his first six innings of work, allowing just two runs.
Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks proceeded to rip a go-ahead solo home run over the wall in right field in the seventh inning against the previously undefeated Porcello, however, giving New York a 3-2 victory and sparking an offensive outburst which ensued on Saturday afternoon.
New York pounded 11 hits off of the Red Sox in the six-run win, with the bottom of the order making up for the absences of designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained right hamstring) and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (tight right hip suffered rounding third base in the first inning of Friday's game).
Third baseman Chase Headley went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, shortstop Didi Gregorius hit 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run, and catcher Austin Romine batted 3-for-4 with two RBI out of the nine-spot for the Yankees, who landed eight men across the plate despite faring just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Steven Wright takes mound for Boston
With Ellsbury questionable for Sunday night's 8:05 ET first pitch, the Yankees will need to rely on more unforeseen contributions if they wish to thwart Red Sox starting pitcher Steven Wright, who currently boasts the AL's fourth-smallest ERA of 1.67 and a stellar WHIP of 1.14.
The knuckleballer is 2-3 on the season, however, he has allowed just six earned runs in 32.1 innings of work while striking out 31 batters in five starts. The 31-year-old fared well in his last start, holding the AL-leading Chicago White Sox to just two runs on three hits in six solid innings of work, striking out six in what would eventually become a 4-1 Red Sox loss.
Wright did suffer from control issues, however, walking four batters on the night which resulted in him being forced to expend 104 pitches over his six innings. The three-year veteran has walked 12 batters in his last three starts, with the undermining cause simply being the unpredictable nature of his slicing knuckleball.
It will be paramount for Wright to limit any erratic behavior on the mound Sunday night if he wishes to pitch past the sixth inning and replicate the start that he enjoyed on April 27, when he limited the Atlanta Braves to just two runs (one earned) on three hits in seven innings, fanning eight while walking just three.
Can Boston bats resurface against Luis Severino?
On the other side of the docket, Boston's bats have been silenced to just four runs in the series despite the team leading the AL in runs scored (149), hits (292), average (.285), and OPS (.800) by a large margin.
Despite their struggles at Yankee Stadium thus far, the Red Sox have the perfect opportunity to break out of their brief slump and capitalize offensively on Sunday night facing the embattled Luis Severino.
The 22-year-old right-hander has struggled mightily this season, going 0-4 with a 6.31 ERA, a 1.64 WHIP, and more earned runs (18) than strikeouts (16) while yielding a .333 batting average against.
Severino allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits in six innings of work in a 4-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on May 3, an improvement on his horrendous April 26 outing in a loss to the Texas Rangers in which he let up six earned runs on seven hits in just three innings of work.