After watching John Lackey pitch against the Yankees today, this much should be obvious: if the Red Sox are going to beat the Yankees head-to-head this year – at least in New York – Felix Doubront may have to play a critical role.
Yankee Stadium simply leaves the Red Sox with little other choice.
Entering Sunday’s series finale between the Red Sox and Yankees, the numbers tell an indisputable story: in 11.2 innings, Sox right-handers Clay Buchholz and John Lackey have allowed 17 hits, 10 runs (eight earned) and five home runs (a 6.17 ERA). In between, left-hander Jon Lester allowed six hits and two runs in 6.2 innings (a 2.70 ERA). The bottom line is that it is again brutally difficult for right-handed starters to win in New York, especially with the Yankees having revamped their lineup around lefties like Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.
Today, those lefties went 6-for-9 with three homers, a double, five runs scored and five RBI against Lackey. (Beltran is obviously a switch-hitter, but was batting from the left side.) Lackey looked exasperated as balls flew out to right field in New York – the most annoying may have been the right-handed-hitting Alfonso Soriano’s opposite-field shot – but you get the idea.
If the ball gets in the air toward right field in New York, it usually carries.
Last year, remember, Lackey’s home (6-3, 2.47 ERA) and road (4-10,4.48 ERA) splits were striking, in part because the spacious right field at Fenway Park helps him out against left-handed batters. In New York, the opposite is true. But then, this is why the Red Sox initially lined up Lackey to pitch at home last postseason rather than on the road. (Buchholz can run the ball away from left-handed batters better than Lackey can, but has yet to pitch at his best.)
Historically – but now more than ever – left-handed pitching is the way to beat the Yankees. It’s why Lester is such a weapon against them. And it’s why the Tampa Bay Rays, assuming the health of David Price and Matt Moore, are always a tough matchup for New York.
And it’s why Doubront, who faces Ivan Nova in the series finale on Sunday, is a huge variable in meetings against the Yankees this year.