Top stats to know: Red Sox-Yankees

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
2:39
PM ET
Tonight features the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees squaring off on "Sunday Night Baseball" (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) in the rubber game of a three-game series.

Here are some things our broadcast crew will be talking about as John Lackey takes the hill for Boston against Chase Whitley.

Life in the fast lane
Lackey's fastball will likely be the key for him tonight, as he has relied on his heater considerably more often since missing the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In 2011, Lackey turned to his fastball 49 percent of the time while using his curve on about 18 percent of pitches. A season ago, after returning from his elbow injury, his fastball usage was up to 57 percent, and this year it's at 66 percent while he turns to his curveball only 11 percent of the time.

No matter what he's using in his arsenal, Lackey has found the zone often this season. Overall, his strike percentage of 69 percent is third highest in the majors, behind only Phil Hughes and David Price.

Which Whitley?
Whitley will look to get back on track for the Yankees. Through his first seven career starts, Whitley was 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA. He had allowed three earned runs or fewer in all seven starts, but his eighth start had no resemblance, as he allowed eight earned runs.

The difference was line drives. His ground-ball percentage remained nearly identical (43 percent in his first seven starts compared to 42 percent in his eighth start), but what were fly balls in his first seven starts became line drives in the eighth. He allowed eight of them in his loss to the Blue Jays, seven of which went for base hits.

Fresh face
Tonight will feature the major league debut of Mookie Betts, who will potentially be in right field for Boston. Betts has carved up the minors this season with both Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. He batted .355 in 54 games with Portland and .322 in 23 games with Pawtucket, and the table to the right shows just how successful he's been at getting on base.

He looks to provide a boost to a Boston team that has been struggling on offense lately. Since the start of June, the Red Sox have managed a .295 on-base percentage, better than only three teams in the majors.

Dustin's decline
While power hitting is not his calling card, Dustin Pedroia's slugging percentage has fallen off for the fourth consecutive year, sitting at just .377 this season (it was .493 in 2010). Pedroia simply hasn't been able to produce fly balls as he once did; only 28 percent of his batted balls have been classified as fly balls this season, down from 38 percent in 2012.

Pitchers have taken notice of Pedroia's diminished power and are challenging him more often. Of all the pitches Pedroia has seen this season, 57 percent have been located inside the strike zone, the highest rate of any hitter in baseball. Pitchers are throwing him fastballs 60 percent of the time, which is more often than all but 13 hitters this season.

Overall, Pedroia has slugged .365 in at-bats ending with fastballs this season, down from a .530 rate from 2010 to 2013.

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