Major League Baseball's regular season resumes Thursday night, albeit with only one game. The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will kick off a pivotal four-game series for both sides. The Red Sox enter the second half with a 55-36 record, good for a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League East over the Tampa Bay Rays; the Yankees, on the other paw, are a disappointing 46-43, positioning them in fourth place, some eight games back in the division.
A series win by the Yankees could embolden them to buy at the deadline. Conversely, a loss could put their season on the brink. After this four-game set concludes, the Yankees will play either the Red Sox or the Rays seven additional times before the deadline. If they enter August well outside the playoff picture, then they'll have no one to blame except for themselves.
That's just one of the storylines worth monitoring over the next few days. We've hit on three others below, but first, let's lay out the info for the four-game set at Yankee Stadium, including the TV and live streaming info.
Thursday, July 15 - Eduardo Rodriguez (BOS) vs. Domingo Germán (NYY)
Time: 7:08 p.m. ET; TV channel: ESPN; live stream: fuboTV (try for free); odds: BOS -105; NYY -105; O/U: 10
Saturday, July 17 - Nathan Eovaldi (BOS) vs. TBD (NYY)
Time: 7:15 p.m. ET; TV channel: Fox; live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Sunday, July 18 - Nick Pivetta (BOS) vs. TBD (NYY)
Time: 7:08 p.m. ET; TV channel: ESPN; live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
1. Duran set to debut
The Red Sox are expected to promote outfield prospect Jarren Duran to the majors prior to Thursday's game. He was not ranked by CBS Sports as part of the Red Sox's top five prospects list entering the spring, but he did appear in Boston's "others to know" section. Here's what we wrote at the time:
The Red Sox left Duran at the alternate site in 2020 to work on his game. That was probably the right call. He has well-above-average speed and he had produced good results with a groundball-happy approach in the lower minors. The only thing he hit in Double-A was a wall, however, and it's unlikely that he would've fared well against big-league pitching. Another season in the minors, with another reworked swing, should leave him ready for the Show.
To Duran's credit, it appears that he did alter his swing in a manner that has enhanced his offensive profile. He hit .270/.365/.561 with 15 home runs and 12 steals (on 15 attempts) in 46 games at the Triple-A level this season. Duran's groundball-to-flyball ratio, meanwhile, was a career-low 0.94, suggesting he's been lofting the ball more frequently. That's a positive development so far as it pertains to him tapping into his raw power.
The Red Sox probably aren't starting Duran's service time clock to sit him on the bench. As such, expect to see him get significant burn across the outfield.
Right-hander Tanner Houck is also set to join the big-league team, according to Dan Roche of WBZ. Houck, a first-round pick in 2017, has already made three appearances for the Red Sox this season, striking out 12 in 10 innings. He has a good fastball-slider combination, but the development of his splitter will dictate whether or not he's a starter for the long haul.
2. The Yankees are winless vs. Red Sox in '21
Many consider the Yankees-Red Sox to be the top rivalry in professional sports. This year, though, it's been a one-sided affair. Coming into Thursday, the Yankees are 0-6 this season against the Red Sox. Those contests have resulted in New York being outscored by 19 runs, or more than three runs per contest.
The Yankees were 9-1 against the Red Sox during the shortened 2020 season, so perhaps this is the universe's way of balancing the rivalry's scales.
3. Red Sox among World Series favorites
The start of the second half is a fair time to start taking the standings seriously. That means, among other things, respecting that the surprising Red Sox have a real chance at making a deep playoff run. According to SportsLine, Boston has the sixth-best odds in the majors at winning the World Series, trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, and others.
The Yankees, meanwhile, enter the second half with just a one percent chance to win the division and 11.2 percent chance to make the postseason.