The New York Yankees have taken the first step on the road to glory, but need to capitalize in key areas to take down the top-seeded Red Sox.
Two American League titans will clash on Friday night in Fenway Park. Game 1. The ALDS. “The Rivalry” reignited.
Earlier on this season, I detailed three things that would propel the Yankees to win the division. That never took shape, obviously, but winning 100 games is still impressive. The New York Yankees just couldn’t catch up to the frontrunning Red Sox.
One of those x-factors will be reintroduced in a strong light. However, there are two new keys to an American League Division Series crown that needs to be accomplished by the Bombers in order to advance to their second consecutive ALCS.
Here’s a short tale of the tape:
- The Boston Red Sox finished the season 108-54. A franchise-record. Yankees finished 100-62.
- Mookie Betts (.346) and J.D. Martinez (.330) lead all of baseball in batting average. The Yankees leading dog is rookie Miguel Andujar at .297.
- The Yankees now have their second consecutive Wild Card game win. They play Boston in the ALDS for the first time in each franchise’s history.
- This is their fourth postseason meeting and first since 2004 when the Red Sox historically came down from 3-0 to beat the Bombers in seven games in the ALCS.
- In the season series, Boston one-uped the Yankees winning 10 of the 19 meetings they had.
Clearly beating the class of the American League is the hardest task the Yankees will face all season. Not only is it a postseason series but it will only offer five games at most. A meeting in the ALCS would have been a lot juicier, but we must take the cards we were dealt.
1. Outlast the starters, get to the bullpen
Let’s just be honest, the Yankees greatest advantage over the Red Sox is the bullpen. The numbers may not tell all, but in the regular season, the Yankees finished fourth in baseball with a 3.38 total bullpen ERA, while Boston finished ninth at 3.72 ERA.
Opponents batting average for New York was .221, Boston’s .235. Not a huge difference, but the Bomber’s numbers show you how elite and dominant the bullpen can be on a given day. The real split comes when you compare individual ERA between both clubs. Boston’s top four reliever ERAs are Heath Hembree (4.20), Matt Barnes (3.65), Hector Velasquez (3.18) and closer Craig Kimbrel (2.73).
Contrary to the Yankees’ top four relievers in terms of ERA: Zach Britton (2.88), Dellin Betances (2.70), Chad Green (2.50), and closer Aroldis Chapman (2.45)
There’s a clear difference between the bullpens. But what would it matter if there is no lead to work with or a close game to keep in reach?
It doesn’t, which is why the first key to the Yankees taking down the Sox starts with outlasting their starting pitching.
The Boston starters averaged a 3.72 ERA in the regular season. As a whole unit, they aren’t elite but they have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Chris Sale. However, what the Yankees have going for them is a surplus of right-handed power to counter against the southpaw in Sale.
You follow him with a friendly, familiar face to the Yankees’ faithful: David Price. A career 4.90 ERA and 1.40 WHIP against the Bronx Bombers spells for disaster against the power the Yankees have displayed in the last two weeks of the season. Yes, these last two weeks, because it has been the most consistent baseball played since the season began.
Chris Sale has dealt with left shoulder inflammation and looked very weak in the last start back. It may have appeared that way too because he wasn’t going to give it his all in a “tune-up” before the postseason.
The point is not to throw shade on their starting staff but it needs to be known one of the very few ways to beat this powerhouse of a team is to outlast their starting pitching just based on the fact of how shaky their bullpen is.
While the Red Sox want to elongate the game with their starters, the Yankees will be doing the opposite; doing anything to shorten the game. Because of this, the first key to the Yankees chances of getting to the ALCS start with getting to the Red Sox bullpen.
2. Capitalize with runners in scoring position
Been there done that.
A problem that has handicapped the Yankees most of the 2018 season is driving in runners when they’re in scoring position.
Amongst other MLB teams, they were in the middle of the pack with a .253 average when runners stood on second and or third. But with men on base in general, they ranked 21st in all of baseball with a .251 average.
Against a team like Boston, this won’t do them any favors. It is a separating factor compared to what the Red Sox do with RISP, who rank first in baseball. Since the Yankees will also be on the road in the first two games of the series, it makes taking an early lead more important than anything else.
Meaning if Andrew McCutchen does his usual job of walking in one of his first at-bats, then moving him over is imperative. At that point, between Hicks, Stanton, and Voit, someone has to drive him in. It happened Wednesday night in the Wild Card game in the Bronx. Time and time again the Yanks capitalized when runners were on base.
That same approach and game must be played when in playing the Red Sox in a five-game series.
The only Yankees white knight in this respective category is rookie, Miguel Andujar, who has hit .294 with RISP. He will need to continue that to help this team score runs whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Because Boston will.
Win one game in Boston
It’s a must. When the Yankees board their plane on Sunday they must have one game in their pocket.
Simply, they need to put the home field back in their favor. Let’s be honest, anyone who watched on Wednesday saw how raucous and hostile the New York crowd has been. It’s safe to say Yankee Stadium is once again a scary place to play.
That said, having an even series heading to the Bronx will only make things easier for many of the young, inexperienced Yanks who are playing, some of them, for the first time ever in a postseason. Couple that with the fact they love to play at home. They’ve hit the most home runs in their home ballpark out of any team in the majors and they are 53-28 this season at 161st St.
Realistically, if this series goes to 2-0 in Boston’s favor before they head back to New York, it can get very ugly. This Boston team isn’t entirely that Cleveland Indians team of last season, but, what some may also forget is that 2017 Indians team was the class of the American League at 102-60 with the MLB’s best pitcher in Corey Kluber during a Cy Young season. Oh, and they had won 22 games in a row in the same year breaking the Cubs 1935 record of 21.
Make your predictions. Begin your smack talk at work with the Red Sox fan in your office and get into the annual Boston/New York debates.
If the Yankees can outlast Boston’s starters, capitalize with runners on base, and steal a game in Boston, they will punch their tickets to the ALCS. If not, they’ll be watching from their couches like we are.