There’s an interesting debate among baseball fans around the one-game Wild Card games that were implemented in the early 2010s. The question surrounds their inclusion in the postseason accomplishment. Does securing a Wild Card spot make you a postseason team?
For the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, none of that matters. All they’re concerned about is winning and surviving to play another day. The 2021 American League Wild Card game is going to be one for the ages, that’s a guarantee.
The Red Sox and Yankees are no strangers to meeting in the spotlight. In the early 2000s, the AL East rivalry gave us some of the most talked-about postseason series in recent memory, if not in the game’s history.
There is no shortage of bad blood between these two storied franchises. From the early days of the Babe Ruth trade to the 2003-2004 slugfests, these two teams have hated each other. Even when it came to trading blows, no one does it better than the Sox and Yanks.
And this year, we get a vintage look at this tale of two cities as they play in the American League Wild Card game, with the winner continuing deeper into the 2021 postseason.
When these two squads last faced off in a do-or-die meeting, both teams played in different scenarios. Bucky Dent earned a middle name, sending a three-run home run over the fabled Green Monster. Dent’s home run in the 7th inning gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The Red Sox would never recover, even with legendary Carl Yastrzemski stepping into the box in the bottom of the ninth, with two men on and two out.
Certain moments of this rivalry appear to sit on a knife’s edge. In 1978, the Red Sox could have stopped the Yankees from winning their second-consecutive World Series in the last three years. And if Yaz was able to drive a ball to right field, driving in Rick Burleson from second, perhaps the Red Sox would have turned their future around. If the Red Sox sent the Yankees back to the Bronx empty-handed, they might not have extended their postseason drought another eight years. Perhaps their 1986 World Series defeat wouldn’t have felt so immense.
And here we are at another one of those moments.
The Boston Red Sox, redesigned by Chaim Bloom after a dismal 2020 season, have defied expectations and are now one win away from the divisional round. To say this team has been a welcomed surprise after the last two seasons would be an understatement. Reminiscent of the Sox teams that captivated New England over the previous two decades, this team feels sewn together with twine, a rustic and rugged band of brothers scraping by.
Their division rivals find themselves in an opposite, less desirable position as they pull up to Fenway Park.
The team with the largest payroll in the American League has not had the easiest season. After limping their way through the summer, their struggles almost cost them a shot at October baseball. With three games remaining and the AL East winning Tampa Bay Rays coming to town, all the Yankees had to do was take two of their final three games to punch their ticket to the Wild Card game.
Instead, the Yanks eked out an extra-innings win, defeating the Rays 1-0 in the final game of the season. Manager Aaron Boone walked up to the edge, and pinch-runner Tyler Wade saved the season for New York.
The Yankees have had little to cheer for in 2021. However, with one more game to play, the Bronx Bombers have a chance to rewrite the ending to their own story. For the Yankees, one game can erase a season full of disappointments and underperformance. As for Aaron Boone, this game could determine whether or not he has a job in the upcoming season. The time to shift the narrative of their time in pinstripes is quickly slipping through their fingers. The Wild Card game can change so much for New York.
The Red Sox will send Nathan Eovaldi to the mound against New York, hoping the former Yankee can conjure some of his 2018 postseason magic. It should be mentioned, however, that in Eovaldi’s second to last start of the season the Yankees tagged him for seven runs on seven hits, as the Red Sox fell 8-3 just over a week and a half ago. The Yankees roster is hitting .250 lifetime against Eovaldi, but Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo are mashing over .400 against the Sox right-hander.
The Yankees have opted to counter with Gerrit Cole, their mega-contract ace, to the surprise of no one. Cole is the best pitcher available to the Yankees, but might not be the smartest move. Cole has a 6.19 ERA against the Red Sox in his three 2021 starts against Boston. Even more of an issue is that Red Sox hitters have knocked him around to the tune of a .302 average when playing at Fenway Park. If the Red Sox can get to Cole early, that might spell the end of the season for the Yankees.
But then again, we’ve seen this Yankees team do some incredible things in these scenarios. In the 2017 AL Wild Card game, New York found themselves down three runs in the top of the first inning against the Minnesota Twins. New York would answer back immediately rattling Ervin Santana for three runs of their own in the bottom of the first, on their way to an 8-3 victory. The Yankees would then advance all the way to the ALCS where they would lose to the Houston Astros in a controversial seven-game series.
So how will the 2021 American League Wild Card game shake out? We’ll soon find out, but for our money, we’re tilting towards the Sox at home, by two runs, with a final score of 5-3.
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