Since Major League Baseball introduced the wild card in 1995, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have appeared in the same postseason eight times. That’s about to become nine, as the historic rivals have each clinched a postseason berth for the first time since 2009.
We weren’t expecting any big celebrations at this point. That’s because the battle for the top spot in the AL East in still on-going, with Boston holding a firm four-game edge with eight days left in the season. But the Yankees did surprise us by breaking out the champagne.
Obviously it’s a relief for both teams just to get in after falling short of expectations over the past three seasons. The Yankees outright missed the playoffs in 2016, while the Red Sox were thoroughly dismantled by the Indians in a three-game ALCS sweep. In 2015, it was Boston missing the postseason, while the Yankees fell to Houston in the ALCS wild card game. As for 2014, that was the first and only postseason since 1993 that didn’t include either the Red Sox or Yankees.
The Red Sox quietly clinched their spot on Thursday thanks to an Angels late night loss to the Indians. The Yankees made a little more noise, clinching at least a wildcard berth with a 5-1 win in Toronto on Saturday.
Both are guaranteed to play at least one postseason game, and the possibility exists that they could meet in the postseason for the first since the 2004 ALCS. That’s the year Boston rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to and ultimately win the World Series.
For that to happen, one team will have to win a do-or-die wildcard game, before meeting either Cleveland or Houston in the ALDS. The AL East winner will move right into the ALDS, where they’ll also meet either Cleveland or Houston.
In other words, both teams will have serious work to do. But the goal is to simply get in the tournament. Once there, the slate is wiped clean and anything can happen.
Boston has the edge right now and has a true ace-in-the-hole in Chris Sale should it come down to a one-game scenario. He’s won 17 games and struck out 300 batters this season while building a pretty strong Cy Young case.
Sale is backed by Drew Pomeranz, who has finally managed to stay healthy and is enjoying a true breakout season as a result. With 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello getting on track and veteran Doug Fister providing solid depth, Boston’s rotation could be OK even with David Price moving to the bullpen.
Oddly, it’s Boston’s offense that’s kinda felt like a disappointment this season. They’ve managed only 159 home runs, which is the fourth fewest in MLB. But the truth is they are still scoring runs, ranking tenth in MLB entering play on Saturday. They may not kill you with the long ball, but they will wear you out. That makes them dangerous in October.
As for the Yankees, they will definitely kill you with the long ball. Thanks to monster seasons from Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and even Didi Gregorius, the Yankees rank second in runs with and fourth in home runs. Their power can turn a game or series around quickly, which will make them a fascinating team to watch.
New York’s pitching situation is setting up better than we thought it might a couple months ago. Adding Sonny Gray at the trade deadline helped. Having veterans like Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia healthy and effective helps too. But the guy to watch here is Luis Severino. The 23-year-old right-hander has been the team’s ace during the second half and could easily start their first postseason game, regardless of the stakes.
Once the AL East is decided, we’ll have a better idea which team is set up better for success. But neither team will be a pushover, even against the dominant Indians and Astros.
– – – – – – –