Matthews: Play Ball! Red Sox at Yankees

posted by Bob Matthews - 

PLAY BALL! RED SOX AT YANKEES...IT’S EARLY BUT CRUCIAL...

WILL FLAWS IN THE YANKEES BE EXPOSED?

The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox – again baseball’s best rivalry by far – will square off Friday through Sunday in the Bronx.

The two-best records in MLB: Red Sox 55-27 (.671) and Yankees 52-26 (.667)...Run differential Red Sox +125 and Yankees +105.

At this time, I believe the Red Sox are the slightly better team. But I expect Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to eventually trade for a veteran starting pitcher, a left-handed relief pitcher and a first baseman if Greg Bird continues to hit more like a parakeet than an eagle.

If the Yankees drop at least two of these three games, it might inspire Cashman to make a few moves sooner than later. Settling for a spot in the American League wild-card game could be disastrous.

Here are my position-by-position matchups (10 is best and 1 is worst in the major leagues):

1B – Mitch Moreland (Red Sox) 7...Greg Bird/Neil Walker (Yankees) 2

2B—Gleyber Torres (Yankees) 7...Eduardo Nunez/Brock Holt (Red Sox) 3. Dustin Pedroia has been a non-factor with a bad knee. Veteran Brandon Phillips might eventually take over. He still can play.

SS – Xander Boegaerts (Red Sox ) 7.5...Didi Gregorius (Yankees) 7.

3B – Miguel Andujar (Yankees) 6...Rafael Devers (Red Sox 4). Slightly disappointing with the bat this season and a liability on defense. A trade for Manny Machado would be a huge upgrade.

LF – Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox) 8.5. He’s an underrated all-around player...Brett Gardner (Yankees) 4.5.

CF – Aaron Hicks (Yankees) 5. I believe the Yankees might be better off with Hicks at 1B and fiery Clint Frazier in the OF if Bird doesn’t heat up soon...Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox) 3. Great glove. Awful bat so far this season.

RF – Mookie Betts (Red Sox) 10...Adam Judge (Yankees) 9. No extra credit for playing catch with kids between innings but I like it.

C – Gary Sanchez – when healthy (Yankees) 6. Low average, below-average defense; power his big plus...Christian Vazquez (Red Sox) 3.

DH – J.D. Martinez (Red Sox) 10. Finally a DH replacement for Big Papi...Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees). For a guy having a “poor season” he’s doing pretty well. Could get very hot at any time.

Starting rotation – Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello the Big Three, with Eduardo Rodriguez and knuckleballer Steven Wright (Red Sox) 9. Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga (Yankees). Severino is terrific. The rest of the rotation is iffy...Red Sox (9)...Yankees (7).

Middle relief – Chad Green, Jonathan Holder and Adam Warren (but not left Chason Shreve) give the Yankees a significant advantage. Yankees 9...Red Sox 6.

Back end of bullpen – David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman (Yankees) 10...Craig Kimbrel a one-man show (Red Sox) 8.

Bench – Versatile Holt, Blake Swihart, Sandy Leon and just-acquired right-handed bat Steve Pearce (Red Sox) 8...Clint Frazier, Ronald Torreyes, Austin Romine (Yankees) 7.

Reminder: Yankees at Boston August 2-3-4-5...Boston at Yankees September 18-19-20...Yankees and Red Sox conclude the regular season at Fenway Park September 28-29-30.

GRADING THE PROJECTED STARTERS

ESPN Insiders Pro Football Focus this week ranked the NFL rosters 1-to-32 in overall talent – focusing on projected starting lineups – heading into training camps.

The Buffalo Bills fared better than I expected at No. 16.

Here are the rankings by division (best to worst):

NFC South – Falcons 2nd...Saints 3rd...Panthers 14th...Buccaneers 27th...total 46 ratings points (the lower the better)

NFC North – Vikings 5th...Packers 11th...Lions 1th...Bears 22nd...Total 53 ratings points

NFC East – Eagles 1st...Cowboys 8th...Redskins 21st...Giants 28th...Total 58 ratings points

NFC West – Rams 9th...Seahawks 12th...49ers 19th ...Cardinals 23rd...Total 63 ratings points

AFC West – Chargers 6th...Chiefs 13th...Raiders 24th...Broncos 25th...Total 68 ratings points

AFC East – Patriots 4th...Bills 18th...Dolphins 26th...Jets 29th...Total 75 ratings points

AFC North – Steelers 7th...Bengals 18th...Ravens 20th...Total 77 ratings points

AFC South – Jaguars 10th...Titans 17th...Texans 31st...Colts 30th...Total 88 ratings points.

Observations – The numbers suggest that the NFC is by far the stronger conference...I believe the Browns are underrated despite last season’s 0-16 record and the Bills are overrated despite last season’s 9-7 record.

The projected starters were rated on this grading scale: Elite 90+...good/high quality 80 to 89.9...Average 70 to 79.9...Below average 60 to 60.9...Poor 0 to 59.9...No grades for rookies or injured last season.

Here are the grades for the Bills:

Offense -- RB LeSean McCoy 84.4...WR Kelvin Benjamin 79.1...ORG Vladimir Ducasse 75.5...OLT Dion Dawkins 74.5...WR Jeremy Kerley 73.7...ORT Jordan Mills 65.7...TE Charles Clay 60.4...QB AJ McCarron 50.1...TE Nick O’Leary 47.4...C Russell Bodine 45.8...WR Zay Jones 43.6...ORG John Miller 39.1.

Defense – CB Tre’Davious White 92...SS Jordan Poyer 87.6...FS Micah Hyde 86.2...DE Jerry Hughes 85...DT Kyle Williams 79.7...LB Matt Milano 72.9...DT Star Lotulelei 49.5...CB Vontae Davis 45.2...CB Phillip Gaines 35.9. No grades for DE Trent Murphy (injured) or LB Tremaine Edmunds (rookie.

SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS

Timely idle Thursday for the New York Yankees. They got to rest their bullpen. I expect their top relievers to be very busy this weekend against the hot-hitting Boston Red Sox.

The Oakland A’s had their MLB-record 237 straight road games with at least one home run end Wednesday night in Detroit but they still beat the Tigers 3-0. A’s manager Bob Melvin is doing a terrific job. His team has a 44-38 record with the second-lowest team payroll in MLB this season (around $83 million; Boston is No. 1 at $242 million).

J.D. Martinez (Boston) hit his 25th home run of the season Wednesday night. No Red Sox player had 25 HRs all of the 2017 season.

The Red Sox are 6-0 versus the Los Angeles Angels this season and have outscored them 49-12.

Shin-Soo Choo, always an underrated player, has reached base in 40 consecutive games for Texas.

The Houston Astros are 18-3 since June 6 and tied a franchise record with 11 straight road wins.

Milwaukee’s Eric Thames loves to hit against Cincinnati: 13 HRs and 24 RBI in 20 career games vs. the Reds.

Struggling Chris Davis finally had a good game for Baltimore Wednesday night: 2-for-5, 1 HR, 3 RBI. The Orioles lost 8-7 to visiting Seattle, dropping their record to 11-26 at Camden Yards and 23-56 overall. He hit another HR Thursday.

RED WINGS SHORTCHANGED FOR TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR GAME

After a timely doubleheader sweep at the Syracuse Chiefs Thursday night, the Rochester Red Wings are a respectable 38-38 so far this season. But they had only one player picked to the 33-man International League roster for the Triple-A All-Star Game versus the Pacific Coast League June 11 in Columbus.

It was good to see C-3B Willians Astudillo rewarded with his All-Star Game selection, but it seems unfair that Rochester is second in the IL in pitching with a 3.30 ERA but has no one on the 14-man IL pitching staff.

The Red Wings continue to have the IL’s most feeble batting attack (rank in the 14-team IL in parentheses):

Batting average -- .226 (14th; No. 13 Lehigh Valley .238)

Runs – 250 (14th; 13th Charlotte 284)

Total bases – 799 (14th; 13th Buffalo 878)

Slugging percentage -- .333 (14th)

PS (on-base % + slugging %) -- .641 (14t); 13th Charlotte .677).

BILLS LATEST OVER/UNDER IS 6 ½ WINS

For the second consecutive season, the latest projected wins totals from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (June 25) list the Buffalo Bills at 6 ½. The Bills finished 9-7 last year and made the playoffs.

The rest of the NFL:

11 wins – Patriots

10 ½ -- Eagles...Steelers

10 – Vikings...Packers...Rams

9 ½ -- Saints...Chargers

9 – Falcons...Panthers...Jaguars (favored to win the AFC South for the first time since the division formed in 2002)

8 ½ -- Cowboys...49ers...Texans...Chiefs

8 – Seahawks...Titans...Raiders...Ravens (fewest since 2008)

7 ½ -- Lions

7 – Giants...Redskins...Bengals...Broncos

6 ½ -- Bears...Buccaneers...Dolphins...Colts...BILLS (not favored to win a game until Week 9 versus Chicago)

6 – Jets

5 ½ -- Cardinals...Browns (have gone under projected wins total 9 of last 10 seasons).

BRAZIL IS THE 538 COMPUTER WORLD CUP PICK

Entering the Knockout Round starting Saturday, here are the probabilities to win the World Cup from the trusty FiveThirtyEight sports computer:

Brazil 25 percent...Spain 20 percent...Belgium 9 percent...England and France each 8 percent...Croatia 6 percent...Argentina and Portugal each 5 percent...Colombia, Switzerland and Uruguay each 3 percent...Sweden 2 percent...Denmark and Russia each 1 percent...Mexico and Japan each below 1 percent.

The FIFA-World Rankings June 7 entering the World Cup were for the most part accurate in World Cup competition so far:

Reached the Knockout Round – Brazil (ranked No. 2)...Belgium (3)...Portugal (4)...Argentina (5)...Switzerland (6)...France 7)...Spain (10)...Denmark (t12)...England (t12)...Uruguay (14)...Mexico (15)...Colombia (16)...Croatia (20)...Sweden (24)...Japan (61)...Russia (70)

Eliminated in Group Play – Germany (1)...Poland (8)...Peru (11)...Tunisia (21)...Iceland (22)...Costa Rica (23)...Senegal (27)...Serbia (34)...Australia (36)...Iran (37)...Morocco (41)...Egypt (45)...Nigeria (48)...Panama (55)...South Korea (57)...Saudi Arabia (67).

Top-ranked nations that failed to qualify for the 32-nation field – Chile (9)...Netherlands (17)...Wales (18)...Italy v(19)...USA (25).

OUR OLD PRO TEAMS ARE FARING WELL THIS SEASON

Remember the good old days when Rochester was the No. 1 minor-league sports city in America?

Times change. Several of the teams that called Rochester home have moved on. Sad to say, to greener pastures: more fan support, more favorable leases and better media coverage.

The Pittsburgh Riverhounds, coached by former Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley and with a half-dozen former Rhinos on his roster, beat the defending United Soccer League champion Louisville City FC, 1-0 Wednesday night, before 7,126 fans at Louisville Slugger Field. Former Rhino Kenardo Forbes scored the only goal in the 79th minute and Penfield product Dan Lynd posted his seventh shutout of the season. The Riverhounds are 7 wins, 1 loss, 7 draws and have allowed a USL fewest 0.47 goals per game. Louisville is 7-3-4. (The Rochester Rhinos are taking this season off and may or may not return to the USL next season).

The Dallas Rattlers are leading the nine-team Major League Lacrosse with an 8-2 record, including five straight victories. They’re averaging 4,693 through four home games at The Ford Center at the Star in Frisco, Tex. (The Rochester Rattlers moved to suburban Dallas after last season).

The North Carolina Courage lead the nine-team National Women’s Soccer League with a 10-1-3 record, They’ve outscored opponents 28-13. Based in Cary, N.C., they’re averaging 4,336 through seven home games this season – not great but much better than were drawing in Rochester. (The WNY Flash, based in Buffalo and playing home games in Rochester, moved to North Carolina after the 2016 NWSL season).

SHORT SHOTS

Former Democrat & Chronicle soccer writer Michael Lewis, now a New York City-based soccer writing icon, noted this week that Wednesday was the 43rd anniversary of the legendary Pele’s first official North American Soccer League goal for the New York Cosmos. He scored it June 27, 1975, against the Rochester Lancers at Holleder Stadium before 14,562 fans.

Former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, has donated $125,000 to help build a three-classroom school in Haiti, his late father’s native country. He has visited Haiti the last two summers on humanitarian trips. The school will be named for him.

Jim Liggett, an outfielder for the Rochester Red Wings in 166 games in the 1964 (.275, 10 HRs, 35 RBI) and 1965 seasons (.222, 3 HRs, 19 RBI), died this month of Lou Gehrig’s disease in California. He was 76. He was a long-time high teacher and coach of the Carlmont Scots in the Bay Area. He was the school’s baseball coach when he was asked to coach the fledgling girls’ softball program for one year. Forty-one years later he was the winningest high school softball coach in California history (1,009-216-4 record). He finally retired in 2016 but continued to attend every home game to cheers for the girls.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday, June 29

Michael Porter Jr. (20)...Kawhi Leonard (27)...Steven Hauschka (33)...Joe Johnson (37)...Martin Truex Jr. (38)...Theron Fleury (50)...Pepper Johnson (54)...former Amerk Kai Suikkanen (59)...Rosa Mota (60)...Pedro Guerrero (62)...Rick Honeycutt (64)...Dan Dierdorf (69)...Claude Humphrey (74). Gary Busey (74) is invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, June 30

Trea Turner (25)...Russell Bodine (26)...Michael Phelps (33)...Trevor Ariza (33)...Miles Austin (34)...Chan Ho Park (45)...Garret Anderson (46)...Mike Tyson (52)...Mitch Richmond (53)...Steve Duchesne (53)...Scott Schwedes (53)...Randy Ladouceur (59)...former Kodak NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin (61)...Ron Swoboda (74).

Sunday, July 1

Justin Bailey (23)...Aaron Sanchez (26)...Michael Wacha (27)...Kent Bazemore (29)...Charlie Blackmon (32)...Nelson Cruz (38)...Jerome Iginla (41)...Carl Lewis (57)...Nancy Lieberman (60)...Dave Waymer (60)...Steve Shutt (66)...Rod Gilbert (77). . Liv Tyler (41), Pamela Anderson (51) and Dan Aykroyd (66) are invited to the birthday party...Famous radio broadcaster Bill Stern was born in Rochester on this date 111 years ago (1907) and died in 1971 at age 64.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS HISTORY...

June 29

68 years ago (1950), USA upset England 1-0 in World Cup soccer. The next win for USA was in 1994...38 years ago (1980), Nancy Lopez won the LPGA Sarah Coventry at Locust Hill...35 years ago (1983), jockey Angel Cordero won his 5,000th race...34 years ago (1984), Pete Rose played in his 3,309th MLB game, topping Carl Yastrzemski...32 years ago (1986), Sparky Anderson became the first manage to win 600 games in each league...28 years ago (1990), for the first time, MLB no-hitters were pitched in each league on the same day/night: Dave Stewart for AL Oakland and Fernando Valenzuela for LA Dodgers (NL).

June 30

89 years ago (1929), Bobby Jones won the 33rd U.S. Open with a 294 at Winged Foot CC...84 years ago (1934), the Portsmouth Spartans became the Detroit Lions...56 years ago (1962), the NFL granted a franchise to the Atlanta Falcons...16 years ago (2002), Brazil beat Germany 2-0 for the 17th soccer World Cup.

July 1

73 years ago (1945), Hank Greenberg, MLB’s first superstar to return from World War II, homered in his first game back in a 9-5 Detroit victory over the Philadelphia Athletics...36 years ago (1982), Baltimore’s Cal Ripken played in his first of a record 2,216 consecutive games...22 years ago (1996), the Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes...21 years ago (1997), the Nevada Athletic Commission suspended Mike Tyson for biting off a piece of opponent Evander Holyfield’s ear.

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