Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the Yankees
NEW YORK -- Three things we learned from the Red Sox' 5-2 win over the New York Yankees . . .
1) Drew Pomeranz may not be the only "addition'' the Red Sox made to their second-half pitching staff
It was only one game -- seven innings, at that -- but the Eduardo Rodriguez the Red Sox saw Saturday at Yankee Stadium was much more like the one they saw a year ago, when he was one of the most promising young starters in the big leagues.
The mechanics were smoother, with no sign of the pitch-tipping he was guilty of earlier in the season. The command was much improved, with just two walks over seven innings. And Rodriguez was also confident with his slider, throwing far more than he had in any of his previous half-dozen starts.
"His seven innings today,'' said John Farrell, "is potentially a major shot in the arm for our rotation.''
Rodriguez pitched with more assuredness, attacking the strike zone and looking more confident in himself. If body language means anything -- and in the past, it has with Rodriguez -- he was a new man Saturday.
The Red Sox kept themselves in contention during the first half despite getting almost nothing from their fourth and fifth starter spots.
If Rodriguez can give them more like he did Saturday and Pomeranz delivers as anticipated, the rotation could go from suspect to a team strength pretty quickly.
2) Sandy Leon is having his moment
Who knows how long this can continue. Leon even attempted to tamp down expectations, noting that he's had just 59 at-bats.
But what a run it's been, topped by Saturday's display. When he wasn't nursing and directing Rodriguez through seven innings of four-hit ball, Leon was slapping a single to left to produce a run and walloping a ball deep into the left field stands for a three-run homer.
It's mid-July and Leon's OPS is 1.212. His on-base percentage is .500. And he's got 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBI in 20 games.
Leon credits a change in his stance -- he's standing a bit taller -- and a more disciplined approach that has him swinging only at strikes.
A number of teammates - David Ortiz and Bryce Brentz -- insisted that they're not surprised by Leon's offensive explosion.
But let's face it -- it's a safe bet that his OPS won't be in four digits come September.
For now, the Red Sox are content to ride the wave. For a guy labeled as merely a "catch-and-throw'' receiver, he's providing plenty of pop from the bottom third of the order.
3) The Red Sox may play a big role in determining whether the Yankees buy or sell.
Coming out of the break, there was a reported split within the Yankees organization, with GM Brian Cashman eager to deal off the likes of Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran to obtain younger players around whom the Yankees can build in the future.
Team president Randy Levine, meanwhile, is reported to be in the "never give up'' camp and doesn't want to wave the white flag with better than two months remaining in the season.
But through the first two games, the Yankees are 0-2, dipping two games under the .500 mark.
If the series was to serve as a referendum on the direction the rest of their season will take, the Sox have helped push the Yankees toward the selling point.
Should the Sox complete the sweep Sunday night, the Yanks will seemingly have little choice -- a fact their manager acknowledged.
"(Sunday) is probably as important a game as we've had in July in a long time," noted Joe Girardi.