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Friday, April 20, 2012
W2W4: Yankees at Red Sox (April 20)


Ivan Nova Matchups to Watch For
Nova is 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in three appearances (two starts) against the Red Sox.

Though the Red Sox are hitting .315 against Nova, those on the current roster are 7-for-30 against him, including a combined 1-for-13 from Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz.

Nova paid the price for mistakes he’s made to left-handed hitters. Of the 76 pitches he’s thrown lefties this season, 10 have been marked by our pitch evaluation tool with a location of “middle-middle,” which is a pitch hitters historically clobber. That’s an unusually high rate of what we’d call “meatball” pitches for Nova, nearly double what he did in 2011.

Lefties are 5-for-5 against those pitches this season, with two doubles and a home run, though four of those hits came in Nova’s first start against the Orioles.

Though Nova has been hit around a little bit, he’s survived because of two keys. He’s gotten hitters out in two-strike counts (they’re 2-for-27 against him) and with runners in scoring position (the Orioles and Angels were a combined 2-for-18).

Nova will try to win his 15th straight regular-season decision. That would be one shy of Roger Clemens’ franchise record, set in 2001.

Clay Buchholz Matchups to Watch For

Buchholz is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA in seven career starts against the Yankees. The two Yankees looking forward to seeing him most are Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano, who are a combined 16-for-39 against him.

He does have success against one Yankee- Thursday’s hero, Curtis Granderson, who is 0-for-11 against him with six strikeouts and four walks. Of their 15 head-to-head matchups, 12 have gone to a two-strike count.

Buchholz seems to still be getting a feel for his pitches upon his return from injury. He’s thrown his changeup up in the strike zone at a higher rate than usual in his first two starts. He’s also been wild against left-handed hitters, allowing six hits and four walks to the 23 he’s faced.

Derek Jeter Watch
Jeter has 296 hits vs Sox, most among active players…with a four-hit weekend, he’d be the fourth player who debuted since WW II ended with 300 hits against the Red Sox—the other 3 are Hall of Famers -- Al Kaline, Nellie Fox, Brooks Robinson.

Jeter would be the fourth Yankees player with 300 hits against the Red Sox. The other three are Lou Gehrig (404), Babe Ruth (347) and Joe DiMaggio (323).

The Monster Effect
My Stats & Information colleague, Zachary Singer suggested a few months ago that we take a look at the value of the Green Monster to Red Sox hitters.

It is noted in the chart on the right in terms of the impact it has specifically on fly balls. The differences in batting average and slugging percentage are staggering.

For those curious, Cano is the best-performing Yankees player on fly balls to left field at Fenway over the last two seasons. He’s 5-for-10 with five doubles.

Endgame
The ninth inning could be particularly intriguing in a close game, given Mariano Rivera’s history of struggles against the Red Sox, and Boston’s bullpen issues in the early part of the season.

For Rivera, one noteworthy matchup could be him against Dustin Pedroia.

Pedroia is 0-for-10 against Rivera. The only active hitter with a worse 0-for is Alex Rios (0-for-15).

Current Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves is 24-3 in his career, though one of those losses was against the Yankees. He too has a good history vs Granderson, holding him hitless in seven at-bats.

Aceves throws mostly fastballs, but has a nasty curveball that drops out of the strike zone. Of the 11 he’s thrown, nine have been out of the zone. Hitters have taken five swings at the Aceves hook and missed on four of them.