Boston Red Sox (1), 108-54, hosting the New York Yankees (4), 100-62.
- Division rivals, the Red Sox and Yankees faced each other a whopping nineteen times during the regular season. If those games are any indication, this five-game series should be a brutal back-and-forth. The Red Sox won the season series 10-9, outscoring the Bronx Bombers 116-102.
- Boston is in the playoffs for the third straight year, having won the AL East in each of those seasons, yet the team hasn’t made it out of the ALDS, winning a combined 1 game the past two Octobers. That led to the departure of manager John Farrell, who had been leading the club since 2013–the last time the Red Sox won the World Series. The team is looking for that exact same success under first-year manager Alex Cora.
- New York, under first-year manager Aaron Boone, returns to the playoffs for the second straight season and for the third time in the past four years. The team made it to the pennant last year, where they lost to the Houston Astros in the full seven games before axing then-manager Joe Girardi after ten years at the helm.
- Red Sox batters torched the league for a whopping 5.41 runs-per-game, tops in the Majors. They did this despite the team finishing sixth in the AL in home runs with 208. But they finished third in stolen bases (125), first in batting average (.268), and first in OPS (.792), while striking out the fifth least amount of times. The pitchers, meanwhile, finished third in the AL in ERA (3.75), third in saves (46), third in strikeouts and seventh in WHIP (1.246).
- Unsurprisingly, given that the lineup contains the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorius, the Yankees led all of baseball in home runs with 267. They were also second in the MLB in runs scored, behind only Boston, with 851. The team slashed .249/.329/.451, good enough for the second-best OPS in the majors at .781. Yankee pitchers ranked 5th in the AL in ERA (3.78), 3rd in saves (49), 2nd in strikeouts (1,634), and 5th in WHIP (1.239).
Red Sox Player to Watch: RF Mookie Betts
The favorite to win the American League MVP, Betts scored 129 runs this year while batting .346 and smacking 32 home runs. He added 30 stolen bases to go along with 47 doubles and 5 triples.
He’s pretty good.
So far, in two playoff series, though, Betts has been merely mediocre, hitting a combined .269/.345/.385 with three doubles, zero home runs, zero RBIs, and only three runs scored. In fact, he’s got almost as many strikeouts (5) as he does hits (7).
For the Red Sox to advance to the pennant, Betts will need to step it up.
Yankee Player to Watch: DH Giancarlo Stanton
Stanton remained the healthiest of the Bronx Bombers this year, playing in 158 games and slashing .266/.343/.509 to go along with 38 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 102 runs scored. While those numbers decreased from a year ago, his last in a Miami Marlins uniform, Stanton still lived up to the hype of being the Yankees’ star acquisition of the past offseason.
But, until the Wild Card game against the Oakland Athletics, he had never before played in the post-season during his nine-year career. What will he do in October? Against the Red Sox during the regular season, he did what he does best: he mashed. Hitting 5 home runs and driving in 17 runners, he slashed a wicked .371/.423/.700 for an OPS of 1.123, his best against any opponent in 2018.
If that trend continues, the Yankees can look forward to being back in the ALCS.
Prediction: New York in 5
I’m going with the upset. While the Red Sox are clearly a different team than their past two iterations, in a smaller series like this one, the bullpen will be incredibly important, and I like New York’s more than Boston’s. Both teams have awesome closers with Craig Kimbrel in Boston and Aroldis Chapman in New York, but Chapman has the better supporting cast.
Much like the regular season series, this divisional series will be decided by one game. The Yankees will move on to the pennant to face either the Cleveland Indians or the Astros.