Friday will mark the first time teams with 100 wins or more will meet before the World Series in the postseason. Those teams? The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.
The best rivalry in sports has been rekindled for the first time in a decade and a half, and it is sure to not disappoint. The Yankees won 100 games and slugged their way to an MLB record 267 home runs, and still finished second in the American League East. The Red Sox beat them by a whopping eight games, finishing with a franchise record 108 wins and the presumed American League MVP Mookie Betts. That being said, it’s important to look back on the rivalry, and how it developed into what fans know and love today.
The Sox and Yankees never faced off in a “playoff” game until 1978, the infamous Bucky Dent game, where Dent hit the go ahead home run over left fielder Carl Yastrzemski’s head to send the Yankees to the World Series. They met again in 1998, with the Yankees coming out on top again in a five game ALDS. However, the real bad blood began to flow with 14 games in back to back Octobers, the back to back ALCS matchups in 2003 and 2004.
2003 is known as the original bad blood starter, where Pedro Martinez began to throw at the Yankees and then physically threw down 72-year-old Don Zimmer in self-defense. Then came Game 7. After a 118-pitch gem, Martinez was in the eighth up three runs. Grady Little came out and fatally stuck with his starter, and Martinez gave up the lead before Aaron Boone hit a walk off bomb off Tim Wakefield to send the Yankees once again to the Fall Classic, where they fell to the Florida Marlins in six games.
How could the two teams top a seven game thriller? Have one go down three-nil in the best of seven and mount the greatest comeback in sports history. No Red Sox fan can forget the ninth inning of Game 4. Against Mariano Rivera, Kevin Millar works his walk. Dave Roberts pinch runs, and Rivera picks off once, twice, three times. Then Roberts goes, and on the first pitch to Bill Mueller, Roberts swipes perhaps the biggest stolen base in the history of the game. Mueller comes through two pitches later lining a laser past Rivera’s head, and the Red Sox tied the game and won it on a David Ortiz home run in extras. Ortiz doubled down the next night, walking off in a fifteen-inning marathon that lasted five hours and sent the series back to the Bronx. Schilling gutted out a seven inning masterpiece in Game 6, with Bellhorn exorcising his demons and putting one in the right field bleachers.
Then it was back to Game 7, where two home runs by Johnny Damon and an early bomb by Papi gave Red Sox fans the win they so desperately coveted and sent them to the World Series for the first time since 1986, where they swept the St. Louis Cardinals to finish off their first title in 86 years.
Fast forward to today. The Yankees come in off their Wild Card win against the Oakland Athletics with sluggers Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez in tow. J.A. Happ will start Game 1, who hasn’t lost a start yet in pinstripes. They boast perhaps the league’s best bullpen, with former and current closers David Robertson, Zach Britton, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. The Red Sox boast a one-two punch like no other when healthy in Chris Sale and David Price. They have the two best hitters in the loaded American League in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, and dominated the season series in Fenway Park where Game 1 will take place on Friday. This series will be open heart surgery for fans, who will be living and dying on each pitch. This is the first postseason match up between these teams in 14 years, and expect it to deliver on the hype.