2021 AL Wild Card preview: Yankees vs. Red Sox
Kody Malouf previews the AL Wild Card game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
What would have been an unprecedented, four-way tie-breaker situation to decide the AL Wild Card race fell by the wayside on Sunday with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both winning their final games of the year, securing their playoff spots and dashing the hopes of Mariners and Blue Jays fans in the process.
After a brutally-close finish to this year’s playoff race, baseball's most-storied rivalry will go where it has never gone before, the AL Wild Card game.
Of the four postseason meetings between the two teams, this will be the first time they’ve squared off in the Wild Card game. New York has a lot of experience with do-or-die postseason baseball, having played in this game three times prior. Boston is in uncharted waters, having never played in the game before.
After being saved for this exact situation, the Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will take the ball for his club. He will look to buck a season trend of being roughed up by the Red Sox.
Cole comes into this game sporting a 4.91 ERA, 1.500 WHIP and an .852 OPS against Boston this year. He will face off against former Yankee Nathan Eovaldi who has mostly handled the Bombers this year, but was hit around for seven runs in 2 2/3 innings on Sept. 24, the last time Eovaldi faced the Yankees.
The game will be played in Fenway Park due to Boston’s 10-9 season record over the Yankees.
The Sox took the first seven games between the two teams, but the Yanks have been great against their rivals as of late, sweeping their final two series for six-straight wins against Boston.
One hero of those final two series for the Yankees was Giancarlo Stanton, who will certainly look to be a factor in the conclusion to a tightly-contested matchup thus far. Stanton has been on a tear over his last 30 games, hitting .284 with 11 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .918 OPS. Stanton was also dominant in the 2020 postseason, batting .308 with six home runs and 13 RBI in just seven games.
Red Sox slugging third baseman Rafael Devers will also look to carry a fine 2021 campaign into the postseason. Devers finished 2021 with a slash line of .279/38/113 but will come into this matchup being 4/19 at the plate with eight strikeouts against Cole in his career. Devers does have three home runs and eight RBI in those 19 at-bats.
Hitting is fun, but postseason baseball comes down to pitching. The winner-take-all game magnifies every pitch, strike and out to the extreme.
If the Yankees get vintage Gerrit Cole, they should move on to face the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. If the Red Sox can get to Cole early and Eovaldi can hold a lead, it should be Boston headed to The Trop.