That about covers it: close games and blowouts, hitting and pitching and defense. The only cause for concern is that, while the Yankees have a better record than 28 teams, they trail the Red Sox. The Yankees are 18-3 since the teams last tangled at Fenway Park, but still looking up in the standings.
The Red Sox are 25-9, and they seem like themselves again. Remember last season, when they won the American League East but finished last in the league in home runs? Now they lead the majors in slugging percentage. Mookie Betts bruised his right shoulder on Sunday, but that should not slow his Willie Mays impersonation: a .355 average with 13 homers. Boston’s five-year, $110 million investment in J.D. Martinez (.349, 8 homers) looks like a steal.
The ace Chris Sale, who pitched on Sunday, will miss this series. The left-hander Drew Pomeranz faces the Yankees’ Luis Severino on Tuesday, with David Price against Masahiro Tanaka on Wednesday and Rick Porcello versus C.C. Sabathia on Thursday.
The more anticipated matchup, if it happens, is Joe Kelly against the Yankees’ Tyler Austin. Kelly, the hard-throwing Red Sox reliever, plunked Austin at Fenway on April 11, payback for Austin’s spiking Brock Holt with a slide at second base.
The brawl that followed has made Kelly a hero in Boston — he got a standing ovation at a Bruins game a few days later — and inspired a promotion at the Class AAA Pawtucket Red Sox series with the Yankees’ affiliate over the weekend. Fans named Joe or Kelly got in free, and the team auctioned an autographed Joe Kelly boxing glove, among other items, for his charity.
Austin, for his part, had little to say on Sunday about the rematch.
“I don’t want to get into all that right now,” he said. “I just want to enjoy this day off. But I think we’re all excited to play Boston. I feel like we’re taking every day like that: we’re coming out to compete and win ballgames, whether it’s Boston or whoever it is.”
On Sunday it was Cleveland, and a top closer, Cody Allen, who could not protect a four-run lead. Mike Clevinger had one-hit the Yankees through seven shutout innings, but he walked Neil Walker to start the eighth. With one out, he walked Austin and left the game.