Red Sox at Yankees (7pm ET Tuesday, ESPN)
The passion still burns hot in the Boston-New York rivalry, but with the Sox headed toward a third last-place finish in four years, the stakes are decidedly lower. While Boston circles the drain, the Yankees appear destined for a one-game Wild Card playoff.
More important than a W for the Yankees are signs that starter Michael Pineda is ready to contribute in October. Over his last two starts, he’s only given up one run in 11 and 1/3 innings, while striking out 10 and walking just one. But his previous two starts he also lasted 11 and 1/3, yet saw him give up eight earned runs. Which Pineda will show up?
The Yankees as a team have been scuffling along for weeks now, playing .500 baseball, with their offense staying afloat thanks to the out-of-nowhere contributions of rookie Greg Bird, who compiled 8 home runs, 18 RBI and a 1.019 OPS in the first 20 games of September.
As maddeningly average as Sox starter Wade Miley has been, he’s also been the team’s most reliable starter this season, leading the team in Wins, Starts, Innings Pitched and Strikeouts, all the while posting a mediocre 4.39 ERA. But he’s put together a solid September, making 4 starts totaling 29 innings with a 3.41 ERA.
Boston’s salvation in 2015 has been the emergence of their twin 22-year-old studs, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and outfielder Mookie Betts, who’ve led the Sox to a late-season resurgence that gives the fans hope for 2016. While Bogaerts is nipping at Miguel Cabrera’s heels for the AL batting title, Betts is top 10 in doubles, triples and stolen bases and playing phenomenal defense.
A’s at Angels (10pm ET Tuesday, ESPN)
The A’s have the worst record in the American League, and it’s not even close, as they trail the Tigers by 7 ½ games on Saturday. To be fair, however, their lowly standing is largely a product of having lost 32 1-run games, the most in all of baseball. Their 15 losses in the first 21 games of September came honestly, however, as the pitching staff surrendered nearly 7 runs a game. Having spent most of the summer 10 games out of first, Billy Beane hit the eject button in late July, trading away starter Scott Kazmir, closer Tyler Clippard, and super-utility guy Ben Zobrist. As the white flag went up, the A’s went down.
The A’s will send to the hill Chris Bassit, almost certainly the best 1-7 pitcher in all of baseball, but who has struggled mightily in his effort to overcome a shoulder injury that had him on the sidelines for nearly a month. In his last start before getting hurt, he gave up 4 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks in 4 ⅓ innings. In his first start back, he gave up 3 runs on 6 hits in only 3 innings.
Bassitt will go up against an Angels team that is fighting for its playoff life, led by the best baseball player on the planet, Mike Trout. As recently as July 28, the Halos had at least a share of the division lead, and then the wheels came off, as they lost 26 of their next 40 games to fall 5 ½ games out of first and 4 ½ games out of the Wild Card race. The Angels pulled out of their tailspin, winning 10 of 15 and finding themselves within a half-game of the post season.
Angels starter Hector Santiago has had a brutal go of it over his last 12 starts, with a 2-5 record, 5.77 ERA and 14 home runs in 57 ⅔ innings, with his last outing against the A’s being a particularly gruesome affair. Santiago gave up 5 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks in a not-so-brisk 2 ⅔ innings.
So with a terrible team facing a terrible pitcher, why bother watching? Two words: Mike Trout. Remember how good Griffey was when he came up? Trout’s got more power and more speed. Trout this year set the record for career WAR by age 23, beating out Ty Cobb. The kid is simply electric. If he can keep carrying the Angels all the way back into the playoffs, he’ll likely be looking at his second consecutive MVP award.
All stats courtesy Baseball-Reference.com.
Watch the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Yankees at 7:00pm ET, followed by the Oakland A’s vs. the Los Angeles Angels at 10:00pm on ESPN.