5 things to watch as Yankees and Red Sox play 3-game series at Fenway Park

Here are five things to watch as the Yankees and Boston Red Sox play a three-game series at Fenway Park starting on Friday…

Round one of rivalry

Yankees-Red Sox is perhaps the most storied rivalry in baseball, and they’ll finally meet for the first time in 2024 this weekend.

While the Red Sox — a modest and surprising 35-34 — are not on the same level as the 49-22 Yankees, these two teams always feed off the energy of this series and they are usually very entertaining games.

And hey, Boston just enjoyed taking a series against the Philadelphia Phillies, including scoring eight-plus runs two games in a row. So they are clicking right now. Let’s see what happens this weekend.

Alex Verdugo’s Boston return

Verdugo was part of a rare trade between the two sides this offseason, and it’s worked out very well for New York.

In 68 games with the Yanks, Verdugo is slashing .259/.314/.418 with eight home runs and 37 RBI. And his defense in left field has provided a major lift. While Verdugo seemingly wore out his welcome in his final season in Boston, he was still very effective with the Red Sox.

Four seasons in Boston saw Verdugo bat .281/.338/.424 with 43 home runs and 206 RBI. He was even 12th in MVP voting in his first season in Boston (2020).

The Fenway faithful should give Verdugo a warm reception, but it’s Boston so you never know.

Verdugo’s best numbers have come at Fenway, where he’s hit .288 while launching 21 homers, knocking 68 doubles and driving in 97 runs. We’ll see if those trends continue this weekend.

Can Anthony Rizzo continue to improve?

Rizzo’s decline at the plate has been an early storyline.

Entering Friday, the 34-year-old is batting just .223, which isn’t too far off from what he’s hit since donning the pinstripes. But he has just 15 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and a .282 OBP, a number he hasn’t seen since his first year with the Padres.

New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) at Yankee StadiumNew York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) at Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo (48) at Yankee Stadium / Wendell Cruz – USA TODAY Sports

That lack of production at the plate forced manager Aaron Boone to bench his first baseman recently to give him a break and try and come up with a solution. That time off helped.

Rizzo played in three of the four games in Kansas City and went 2-for-11 with a walk. On paper, that’s not great. But you can see that he’s barreling up the ball and has been a bit unlucky. And he hit a home run in Thursday’s loss — his first since May 10.

Could he continue this trend upwards this weekend? Interestingly enough, Rizzo doesn’t have a lot of success at Fenway. He’s 16-for-87 (.203) with nine doubles and just one home run in his career there.

Recent bullpen woes

The Yankees bullpen has been a big part of the team’s success this year, but they’ve struggled lately.

Clay Holmes gave up two runs in the ninth inning of Thursday’s loss, his fourth blown save this season. In the first three games of the Royals series, the bullpen surrendered five runs on 10 hits and six walks over nine innings.

Luckily for the Yanks, the starters have gone deep into games and the offense has clicked, meaning the recent shakiness of the ‘pen has not been much of an issue. But it’s clearly the weakness of this team.

Can Carlos Rodon have another great start?

Rodon made up for his dreadful start in Kansas City last season with one of his best earlier this week.

On Monday, the left-hander gave up just one run on five hits over seven innings in the team’s win, and he’ll look to continue his run of great starts on Saturday. He’ll be opposite Cooper Criswell, but he’ll go up against a lineup that just put up eight runs on Aaron Nola.

Rodon made just 14 starts las season and he actually faced the Red Sox in Boston in 2023. Back on Sept. 12 of last year, Rodon pitched five innings while giving up one run on four hits while walking four and striking out nine.

The southpaw has actually been pretty effective at Fenway in his career. He’s only made three starts but has given up just five earned runs over 17.1 innings (2.55 ERA).

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