On Friday, the Red Sox travel to Tampa to face the New York Yankees at George Steinbrenner Field. It’s just a preseason game, one of many stops along the road in Florida as Boston gets ready for the 2018 schedule.

Earlier this month, the Yankees beat the Red Sox 5-3 at Fort Myers, Florida.

The Red Sox begin the regular season on March 29 at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yet we will get our true first look at the Sox when they face the Yankees for real 13 days later. After all, how New Englanders feel about this baseball season will undoubtedly come down to how the Sox fare against New York after the two teams loaded up this winter for a championship run.

“Sure, yeah,” David Price said sarcastically earlier this month. “You guys want it. Let’s do it. We hate the Yankees. We hate the Yankees. Hate them.”

The sarcasm behind that quote is easily understood: baseball players are engineered to look at the entirety of a 162-game schedule. Going 19-0 against New York doesn’t mean a whole lot if you go 0-143 against everybody else.

Yet the old feelings of summer insecurity bubbled up in New England when the Yankees traded for National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton in December. Suddenly the Sox were chasing the Yanks again, a pursuit that continued until Boston finally announced the signing of J.D. Martinez on Feb. 24.


So how do these teams really match up?

There’s no doubt the Yankees have more power. Only two players hit 50 or more home runs in 2017 – Stanton and Aaron Judge – and both wear pinstripes. The Red Sox, as you probably know, finished dead last in homers in the American League.

You could make the argument that Boston has a deeper lineup than New York.

The Yankees improved the back end of the batting order with the addition of third baseman Brandon Drury and will have guys like Aaron Hicks and Greg Bird batting sixth and seventh.

But the Red Sox will counter with players such as Rafael Devers and either Xander Bogaerts or, eventually, Dustin Pedroia in the six and seven holes. And Jackie Bradley Jr. is a No. 9 hitter who goes on perennial hot streaks worthy of a top-of-the-lineup hitter.

Of course it will all come down to pitching.


Luis Severino gets the nod as the Opening Day starter for new Yankees manager Aaron Boone. He went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and finished third in the American League Cy Young voting last year. Chris Sale, Boston’s ace, finished second. The Yankees’ rotation will also feature Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and Jordan Montgomery. Boston counters with David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright or Eduardo Rodriguez.

The Sox get the edge here. Health will determine whether or not that changes, with Price and Porcello looking to bounce back from 2017. Brian Johnson gives the Sox additional depth, and may have to start the season as the fifth starter if Wright and Rodriguez are on the disabled list.

The bullpens are both very good. New York’s Aroldis Chapman and Boston’s Craig Kimbrel anchor their respective relief corps, and both are elite. Each bullpen features hard throwers who can strike out batters. In 2017 the Sox bullpen had a lower ERA, while Yankees relievers had a higher strikeout rate and a lower opponents’ batting average.

Give the Yankees the slight edge on this one.

In the end, the margin between these two teams is very, very small. That’s why the 2018 baseball season is shaping up to be such a good one. It’s always good for baseball when the Boston-New York rivalry is simmering – and both teams enter 2018 in full go-for-it mode.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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