The Boston Red Sox and American East rivals the New York Yankees are waging a battle late into the summer with one big difference from the past; the new generation of players do not have the same volatile attitude toward one another compared to the days early in the 2000s.
Big names that liked to scuffle such as Alex Rodriguez, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, and Derek Jeter are gone.
It is hard to see the same from players like Didi Gregorius and Aaron Judge or from Red Sox players like Xander Bogaerts.
However, that does not diminish how important the weekend series is starting Friday in the Bronx. The showdown of the two AL East rivals is the most significant of the season and could be the last chance the Yankees have to stop what most believe is the best team in the AL.
New York lost on Thursday at Toronto 4-0 and are now 4 ½ games behind first place Boston, while Boston is on a big roll, with the Red Sox winning eight straight, scoring 50 runs over that span and slapping 34 hits for extra bases.
The bullpen has not given up a run over 18 straight innings and the pitching staff has an impressive ERA of 3.04 during that period.
This comes at a time when veteran southpaw David Price is on the team’s disabled list. No one is suggesting they can have better results without the lefthander, but since he has not played there has been less noise and more focus.
The Red Sox without Price might be ready to extend their lead even more and what could stop them.
The Yankees need much more production out of hitters from the right side. Aaron Judge is one in particular. The Yankees will face three Boston lefthanders over the weekend including Eduardo Rodriguez, followed by Drew Pomeranz and ace Chris Sale.
Judge has looked almost minor league-like since the All-Star break. The Yankees slugger since then is batting .173 with 40 strikeouts in his 87 at bats. He has looked both exhausted as well as overwhelmed.
Most did not expect the rookie to keep the numbers he was posting earlier in the season, but New York is dismayed at the pace that his hitting dropped off.
Pitchers have made adjustments to pitch against Judge by challenging him with high sliders and fastballs near his eye and outside at the corner of the plate.
Through Wednesday’s game, Judge has been thrown 119 slides during the second half of the season. He has swung 56 times at them and missed 36. Against them, he has made 20 outs and has not hits.