The Boston Red Sox go for a three-game sweep of the arch-rival New York Yankees tonight on “Sunday Night Baseball” (8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN) and move closer toward clinching the AL East title. Boston’s magic number for doing so is six.
Here are five storylines the broadcast crew will be talking about tonight.
1. It’s been a long time since the Red Sox have enjoyed this kind of success against their long-time nemesis. Boston is seeking its 13th win against the Yankees this season in the final game of the season series. The Red Sox haven’t won 13 games against New York in a single season since winning 14 in 1973.
2. The return of Clay Buchholz, who makes his second start tonight since returning from a nearly three-month long stint on the DL, is a big deal for the Red Sox rotation.
Buchholz With and Without Farrell
Last 4 Seasons
When Buchholz went on the disabled list in June, he was 9-0 with a major-league leading 1.71 ERA.
Many credit Buchholz’s return to his All-Star form to the return of his former pitching coach John Farrell, who is now Boston’s manager. His difference in performance is noted in the chart on the right.
Batters have a had a hard time figuring out Buchholz this season as 44 of his 87 strikeouts (51 percent) have been looking this season. That’s the highest percentage of strikeouts looking of any pitcher with at least 10 starts this season.
Even worse news for the Yankees is that Buchholz has won both of his starts against New York this season, holding the Yanks to one run in 12 innings. Before this season, he hadn’t fared well against New York, posting a 2-5 record with a 7.19 ERA in 9 starts.
3. Ivan Nova, who will oppose Buchholz, has relied on his curveball this season. He’s thrown by far the highest percentage of curveballs among AL pitchers with at least 15 starts this season at 35 percent overall.
Nova’s curve is generating an eye-popping 48 percent miss per swing rate and opponents are batting only .148 in at-bats ending with his curveball this season. He’s generated 125 outs with the pitch versus 33 total bases allowed. The only pitcher with a higher miss-rate with his curveball is Yu Darvish, 52 percent.
4. The Red Sox are very pleased with the job Koji Uehara has done as their closer.
Lowest Single Season WHIP
MLB History (minimum 60 IP)
His 0.56 WHIP would stand up as the lowest single-season total (minimum 60 IP) in major league history if he can maintain similar numbers through the end of the season.
Since became the closer on June 26, Uehara has posted an 0.24 ERA with 18 saves in 35 appearances.
5. This will be Mariano Rivera’s last regular-season game against the Red Sox. His career save percentage against Boston is 78 percent (0including the postseason), his lowest against any AL opponent.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Rivera already tied the major-league record for most saves by a pitcher in his final season in the majors. Jeff Shaw (2001 Dodgers) and Robb Nen (2002 Giants) each registered 43 saves in his last major-league season; no other pitcher saved as many as 40.