MLB Postseason Preview: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

MLB Postseason Preview: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

by October 4, 2021 2 comments

Game 154 in 1949, Bucky Dent in 1978, the Aaron f’n Boone game in 2003, and Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS collapse. Those have been the four other win-or-go-home games between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Now comes the fifth on Tuesday night as the greatest rivalry in all of sports is renewed. It follows both teams winning Game 162 on the final day of the regular season. Both teams finished with the same record, at 92-70. But the Red Sox won the season series, 10-9, which means this will go down at Fenway Park. 

The Yankees have had one heck of a rollercoaster season, winning 13 in a row at one time only to be followed up by losing 12 of 15. After looking like they were going to miss the playoffs in July, the Yankees went 46-27 after the All-Star break. They swept Boston to put themselves in a good position, before taking two of three from the Toronto Blue Jays. Then after losing the first two the Tampa Bay Rays, they had a dramatic 1-0 win as Aaron Judge walked them off to a clincher.

The Red Sox nearly choked a playoff spot away after leading the AL East at one point in time. They lost two of three to the Baltimore Orioles after the Yankees sweep. Then they finished a sweep of the Washington Nationals with a come-from-behind 7-5 victory on Sunday to avoid a Game 163. That would have been against the Blue Jays, which would have gone down today.

Three keys to victory for Yankees 

$324 Million Man

The Yankees signed Gerrit Cole to a nine-year $324 million contract prior to the 2020 season. They need him to be the stud pitcher they signed him to be in a huge moment. The right-hander has been a Cy Young candidate all season. But he is coming off a couple of shaky starts to end the season. Cole will need to bounce back mightily from giving up five runs in six innings against the Blue Jays and give the Yankees a better chance to win. He also gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings two starts prior againt the Cleveland Indians.

If the Yankees are going to win, Cole needs to be an ace and hand if off to the bullpen with the offense still in the game. The Red Sox have hit Cole this season, as he has a 4.91 ERA and an .852 OPS in 22 innings this year against them.

Offense Outside Judge and Stanton

The two main catalysts to the Yankees offense this season have been Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. They both stayed healthy – with Judge playing 148 games and Stanton playing 139 – which was huge. Stanton showed shades of his 2017 MVP season and came up clutch in big moments, while Judge was a top five MVP candidate all year. While they have both been incredible – with Stanton having a signature moment with his go-ahead grand slam in the last Boston series – the Yankees need other bats to step up.

If you subtract the two big boppers from the Yankees lineup, the Yankees wouldn’t even be playing this game. Guys like Brett Gardner – been on fire of late – Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Joey Gallo, and Anthony Rizzo need to take some of the weight off the backs of Stanton and Judge.

Bullpen

The Yankees’ bullpen has been the best bullpen in baseball at times this season, and one of the worst at others. If they perform like they did in Game 162, the Yankees will be in business. Along with that, Aaron Boone has to make the right moves in the right spots, which he did on Sunday.

After Jameson Taillon gave them 3 1/3 shutout innings, the bullpen kept zeroes up for the final 5 2/3 innings. Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Aroldis Chapman all pitched at least one inning while surrendering a combined three hits. All of them will be available for Tuesday, along with Luis Severino who could give them length if necessary. Michael King has also been an excellent arm out of the bullpen. Chapman looks to be back to being the Chapman of old. If this is a tight game, he will need to be just that in the ninth inning to close it out or hold a tie. All hands will be on deck for this win-or-go-home contest, so don’t be surprised to see the bullpen getting up early even with the ace on the hill. 

Three keys to victory for Red Sox

Ace Eovaldi Shows Up

Over his first five starts against the Yankees this season, Nathan Eovaldi shut down the Bronx Bombers. In each of those starts, he gave up two earned runs or less. 2021 has been his best overall season to date, but then on September 24, the right-hander was crushed for seven hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings. The Red Sox need the ace version of him to make his return, the one who surrendered just a .185 batting average against and four earned runs in 22 1/3 innings in the 2018 postseason.

Rafy Stays Hot

The best hitter on the Red Sox is Rafael Devers, and he got hot over the final weekend of the regular season. Devers carries the Boston lineup when he’s hot and he went 4-for-5 with two homers in the final game. The second homer was a go-ahead bomb to send the Red Sox to the wild card game. This season, the slugger hit .279/.352/.538 with 38 homers, 113 RBI, and a 132 OPS+. Devers has also hit three bombs in the four hits he has against Cole in 19 at-bats.

Xander Gets Hot 

While Devers has been hot, Xander Boegerts, the team leader and two-time champion, has been ice cold. Since September 24, the shortstop has gone just 5-for-32 with no extra base hits. He will need to get hot again to take weight off of Devers and the rest of the lineup. But he also had a bout with COVID among the Red Sox outbreak, and just really hasn’t been himself since.

Analysis 

This will be a very closely contested game and could come down to the bullpens. Through four innings, it will be a pitcher’s duel between Cole and Eovaldi before Cole hits a bump in the fifth inning, allowing a two-run home run off Devers. But then the Yankees knock out Eovaldi in the sixth and bring in two runs to tie it. Cole gets knocked out after six, and the bullpens twirl scoreless innings until the ninth. The Yankees scratch a run across in the top half, but Chapman surrenders a game-tying bomb to Boegerts in the bottom half. The game goes to the 12th with no more runs score before Joey Gallo breaks Boston fans hearts with a homer. Then Clay Holmes shuts the door with a 1-2-3 inning. 

Prediction: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3

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