For the first time since the 2004 season, the Yankees and Red Sox will square off in the postseason. This time around it will in the best of five ALDS in what should be another great chapter in this storied rivalry.
After beating the A’s handily 7-2 in Wednesday night’s AL Wild Card game the Yankees will enter Game 1 in Boston tonight with some momentum on their side. However, this series is going to come down to much more than who has the momentum considering how evenly matched these two powerhouses are.
The Red Sox will likely be favored because of their 108 win regular season that secured them home field advantage, but the Yanks certainly have the tools to knock them off.
With that being said, here are two big reasons why the Yankees can win this series.
Yankees have the bullpen edge
The Yankees starting rotation matches up well with the Red Sox, but when it comes to each team’s bullpen New York has a huge edge. From top to bottom the Yankees have a collection of power arms that can help them shorten a game, more so than any other team you’ll see this postseason. The same can not be said about Boston’s pen outside of star closer Craig Kimbrel.
Over the past couple seasons, we’ve all seen how much Boston’s pen struggles against the Yankees trying to hold a lead for Kimbrel in the ninth. Names like Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, and Heath Hembree have been no match against this Yankees offense and yet they will all be relied upon to get big outs if Boston is going to win this series. Even Kimbrel himself has struggled against the Yanks with a career 4.42 ERA in 19 games.
Kimbrel also never pitches more than one inning which is something all the best closers can do in the postseason. Based on Boston projected roster the reliever who should strike the most fear into the Yankees lineup is knuckleballer Steven Wright. He’s shut down the Bombers numerous times over the years and figures to play an important role this series.
On the flip side, the Yankees pen was by far the best at striking out opposing hitters per 9 innings during the regular season and is simply better equipped for October baseball. That’s not to say they won’t struggle against what is a terrific Red Sox lineup because we’ve seen them do plenty of damage against the Yankees pen this year.
Starting pitching will play a huge role in this series but as it often does during the postseason it will come down to which bullpen can get the big outs in the late innings. With this Yankee pen, I like their chances against anyone one and I definitely like the offense’s chances against Boston’s pen.
Yankee right-handed hitters against Boston’s left-handed starters
Speaking of the Yankees offense I love how they match up against Boston’s starting staff specifically David Price in Game 2. Chris Sale will get the ball in Game One which normally would make Yankee fans very nervous. Sale has dominated the Yanks throughout his career and this year it’s been no different as he’s held them to an ERA under 1.
However, the biggest question surrounding Boston this October is the health of their ace after missing six weeks with shoulder inflammation late this summer. Sale returned in September and tried to work his way back to full strength but in his last start of the regular season, he struggled against the Orioles throwing his fastball around only 90-91 mph. That was eye-popping to see because that’s very un-Sale like so it should be very interesting to see how he performs against the Yankees right-handed heavy lineup that’s hot right now.
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When the Yankees can stack all their righties mashers along with Didi Gregorius against lefties it gives them the most dangerous lineup in baseball. Of the nine Yankee starters you’ll see tomorrow night seven of them slugged over .500 against southpaws this season and that’s not including Didi and Aaron Hicks who are both more than capable of doing damage. If Sale is not his All-Star self pitching at 100% this Yankee offense could jump on him and steal Game One.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself but if the Yanks can win Game One they should win the series because they’ll face Price and his 0-8 career postseason record (as a starter) in Game 2 before heading home to the Bronx for Games 3 and 4. Just the thought of Price starting down 0-1 is likely a terrifying thought for Red Sox fans.
From top to bottom Yankees hitters salivate when they step in against Price, with Luke Voit, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Hicks, combining for nine home runs (Sanchez has 5 by himself).
Price had an outstanding second half, but since joining Boston he has an ERA of 7.71 against the Yankees and this season alone it’s 10.13. That’s why Game One might be the most important of the series because the Yankees are going to hit Price and that could end up putting Boston in a hole they may not be able to dig themselves out of.