BASEBALL’S biggest rivalry enters uncharted territory on Tuesday night as the Boston Red Sox play host to the New York Yankees for the first time in a one-and-done American League (AL) wild card game.
Boston (92-70) finished atop the AL wild card standings after Rafael Devers’ tie-breaking two-run home run in the ninth inning on Sunday sealed a 7-5 comeback win at Washington in the final game of the regular season.
The Yankees (92-70) clinched the second wild card spot on Sunday in their finale against Tampa Bay with a 1-0 win on Aaron Judge’s walk-off infield single.
Despite finishing with the same record, Boston will host the one-game playoff as a result of winning the regular-season series 10-9. The Yankees have won nine of the past 12 games between the teams after the Red Sox won the first seven meetings.
“We’ve seen that happen in the course of this rivalry over the years where you get hot for a little stretch against them or not, but I think it will be two really competitive teams,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “You live to be in these kind of competitive environments with a ton on the line.”
The winner advances to face the AL East-champion Rays in an AL Division Series matchup beginning on Thursday at St. Petersburg, FL.
The classic 1978 tie-breaker game that the teams played at Fenway Park is one of baseball’s most memorable one-game playoffs. Bucky Dent’s three-run homer lifted the Yankees to the victory, but that game was played for the AL East title before the dawn of the wild card era. The Yankees went on to win the 1978 World Series.
This is the first postseason meeting between the Red Sox and Yankees since 2018, when Boston won the AL Division Series 3-1 en route to its fourth World Series title since 2004.
“This is different. It’s one game,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “We are who we are. We’re not perfect, we know that. But we didn’t run into (92) wins just being lucky. We have a good baseball team.”
Prior to 2018, the teams met in back-to-back AL Championship Series in 2003 and 2004.
In 2003, New York won in epic fashion on Boone’s walk-off home run in Game 7 to reach the World Series.
A year later, Boston made history by becoming the only team to erase a 3-0 playoff series deficit when they defeated the Yankees on the way to their first World Series championship in 86 years.
A pair of All-Star pitchers will face off on Tuesday as New York right-hander Gerrit Cole (16-8, 3.23 ERA) opposes Boston right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (11-9, 3.75 ERA). Cole and Eovaldi last dueled a week ago in a Yankees’ 8-3 win on their way to a three-game sweep at Boston.
Cole posted a quality start with six innings of three-run, five-hit ball with three walks and six strikeouts. Eovaldi turned in one of his worst starts of the year, tying a season-high-tying with seven runs allowed on seven hits with no strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings.
Cole went 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season. Eovaldi is 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA in six starts against his former team this year.
In the postseason, Cole boasts an impressive 8-4 record with a 2.68 ERA in 13 career starts. Meanwhile, Eovaldi has gone 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA in six career postseason appearances (two starts).
Boston has never played in the one-game wild card format, while this is the fourth appearance for New York. The Yankees are 2-1 in wild card games, falling to Houston 3-0 in 2015, but beating Minnesota 8-4 in 2017 and Oakland 7-2 in 2018. — Reuters