Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes his team's home stand this week is "big," according to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com.
The Red Sox are traveling to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season to play a three-game set. With another AL East opponent in the Orioles coming to town after this series, Girardi realizes how crucial the next few games are for his ballclub.
"I think it's big. I think it's big home stand," Girardi said. "We're playing Boston and Baltimore. You don't want to get ahead too far but these are really important games. We're in a stretch of 13 in our division in a row. We get to go home now. We've got to play better."
The Yankees split their series with the Blue Jays in Toronto following Sunday's 3-2 loss. Previously, they lost two out of three against the Orioles at Camden Yards, earning them a 3-4 record on their road trip.
Though they defeated Boston in two straight games back in April, Girardi says this isn't the same Red Sox team coming to Yankee Stadium this week.
"They swung the bats really well in May," Girardi said. "Obviously, they got David Price back. They got some people back. (Pablo) Sandoval is back. (Dustin) Pedroia is out. They've swung the bats and they've pitched well, too. Obviously it's a big series. Right now, it's one big series after another."
The Red Sox have won six of their last ten games entering this series. They also sit two games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings.
Price will be one of the starters for the Red Sox as he is set to take the mound in the final game of the series against RHP Michael Pineda. RHP Masahiro Tanaka will face LHP Drew Pomeranz Tuesday, while LHP CC Sabathia will battle RHP Rick Porcello on Wednesday.
With the coveted rivalry finally making its way to the Bronx, left fielder Brett Gardner says the team is ready to embrace the atmosphere and face the challenge.
"It will be exciting," Gardner said. "It's something that us as players we get excited for but the fans probably enjoy it more than we do. Whether we're at Yankee Stadium or we're up at Fenway, it's always a great atmosphere. I'm sure, now that June's here and the summer months, I'm sure the stadium will be packed. It'll be a lot of fun. It'll be a good challenge. We're looking forward to it."
After this home stretch, the Yankees will head to the West Coast for a seven-game stint against the Angels and Athletics.
As Girardi notes, each series seems like a big one these days, but when playing division foes, they account for two games in the standings. Without care, the Yankees could find themselves in a tie, or worse, out of first place in the division at the end of the homestand.
In my view, the key to the homestand is the pitching performance of Tanaka. He'll garner two starts in the six-game stretch, and in order to come out with a desired 4-2 record, I suspect the Yanks will need to win both of his outings.
It all begins with the series opener against the Red Sox, a start in which Tanaka will have an extra day of rest, which typically improves his performance. Tanaka's best start came against the same Red Sox at the end of April and he owns a career 6-2 mark, with a 3.52 ERA and 1.01 WHIP against Boston in 11 career starts (69 innings).
Beyond Tanaka, if the Yankees' offense continues to put up runs (they average 5.4 runs per game), and combined with more strong efforts from the rotation, it could come down to middle relievers getting games to Dellin Betances in the ninth (assuming no blowouts). Middle relievers holding leads or games close has been a problem of late and one the Yankees cannot afford to succumb to against division foes.