The Yankees, one of the hottest teams in baseball, will host the archrival Red Sox for four games beginning Thursday evening in the Bronx.
Here's a high-level preview of the series.
Where they stand and recent trends
The Yankees (36-19) enter the series with a 1 ½-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays and a 7 ½-game spread over the Red Sox. The Yankees have gone 28-9 since walking off the field on April 18 with an 8-10 record. The Yanks have won their last eight series.
They rank fourth in the AL in both home runs (90) and run differential (+75), while carrying a team ERA of 3.72 (fourth in the AL).
The Red Sox (29-27) have lost four of their last six games, but they have clawed their way back into the AL East race after a low-water mark of 6-13 on April 17, when they lost the second of the only two games against the Yankees this season. The Red Sox are currently tied with the Athletics for the second AL wild card spot.
Boston's offense is ranked sixth in the AL in terms of team OPS (104), and the club's ERA is 4.43 (league average is 4.44). The Red Sox run differential stands at +33.
Who is carrying the load?
For the Yankees, the answer to this question seems to be different almost everyday. The Yankees have received surprising performances from players like Gio Urshela (126 OPS+ in 151 plate appearances) and have been consistently lifted by others like DJ LeMahieu (hitting .313), Gleyber Torres (14 HR, 128 OPS+), Luke Voit (14 HR, team leading 38 RBI) and Gary Sanchez (team-high 17 HR).
On the rubber, the Yankees have received solid starting pitching, though not a single start from Luis Severino and were without James Paxton for almost four weeks. The Yanks will send J.A. Happ, Domingo German, an opener and CC Sabathia to the hill in succession over the four games.
Finally, the Yankees bullpen, which has been without Dellin Betances all season, is rounding into form. Tommy Kahnle has bounced back from a rough 2018 season and joined Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to create a dominating force at the end of games.
For the Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. is having a rough season, while Andrew Benintendi has yet to find a true rhythm. 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez have begun to heat up. The Red Sox offense has received a boost from rookie Michael Chavis, third baseman Rafael Devers, shortstop Xander Bogaerts and first baseman Mitch Moreland, who is on the 10-day injured list.
The Red Sox rotation has been somewhat of a surprising disappointment with Chris Sale, Thursday's starter, sitting with a 4.19 ERA (3.60 FIP) across 62 1/3 innings. Sale has still shown dominance, striking out 88 batters. Rick Porcello (4.41) and Eduardo Rodriguez (5.04 ERA, but 3.60 FIP) have also struggled, while David Price is the lone starter meeting preseason expectations with a 2.83 ERA.
The Red Sox bullpen had been much better than advertised this season until the last two games against the Indians in which it allowed 14 earned runs in seven combined innings. Ryan Braiser has been closing out the majority of Boston's wins, but the setup crew has been quite effective overall.
Potential ramifications of the series
The Yankees could put some significant distance between the clubs by winning at least three out of four, but would probably be content by minimally splitting the series, which would keep the Red Sox firmly at bay. If the Yanks were to open an 11 ½-game lead with a sweep, it would be difficult for the Red Sox to catch up, much like the Yankees found it to be last season.
Alternatively, if the Red Sox took three of four from the Yanks, they would be well within reach of the Yankees with about 100 games left in the season. A Red Sox sweep would likely instill some doubt into the Yanks, while uplifting a Red Sox club looking to make a run.
No matter the results, the teams will play each other another 13 times over the remainder of the season, including next month's two-game series in London.