The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will be entering this three-game series with one game separating them in the standings. Standing alone atop the MLB standings are the Red Sox at 25-9 and the Yankees at 24-10. Even after the scorching 17-2 start by the Red Sox out of the gate, the Yankees have since responded by winning 15 of 16 games. Coincidently, the one game separating the two comes down to the Sox taking two games of three in the previous series.
Who could forget the drama-filled series from mid-April? In the Yankees 10-7 victory, Tyler Austin slid spikes-first into shortstop Brock Holt at second base. Four innings later the Sox chose to retaliate with Joe Kelly on the mound, drilling Austin on the side with 98 mph cheese. Austin did not take kindly to Kelly’s retaliation, slammed home plate with his bat, dropped the bat, and then pointed Kelly’s way while shouting and proceeding towards the mound. “Smokin” Joe Kelly was fearless and provoked Austin his way, with Kelly connecting on a couple punches resulting in a fat lip for Austin, but also the benches-clearing leading to four ejections. “The only thing I would have done differently than Joe Kelly tonight is I would’ve hit Tyler Austin at his previous at-bat. Other than that, Kelly executed perfectly,” Pedro Martinez tweeted.
This gave the rivalry an element is has been lacking since the early 2000’s. The Yankees and Red Sox met in the ALCS in both 2003 and 2004 and was the pinnacle of the historic rivalry. In game 3 of the 2003 ALCS at Fenway Park, Pedro Martinez hit Yankees Karim Garcia with a pitch. Garcia did not take a liking to being hit and the two jawed at each other before the benches cleared. In the bottom of that inning, ex-Red Sox great Roger Clemens threw a pitch high and inside at slugger Manny Ramirez which led to another benches-clearing brawl. During this incident, Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer charged at Pedro Martinez; Pedro grabbed Zimmer by the head and threw the 72-year-old to the ground. This series would come down to a decisive game 7, and take the mound for their respective teams were Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens. Through seven innings, Pedro out-dueled Roger and his club held a 5-2 lead. At the time Red Sox manager Grady Little would make the costly mistake of leaving Pedro Martinez in the ballgame. He would later allow a two-run bloop double to Jorge Posada that would knot the game at five. This game would go into extra innings, where Aaron Boone would hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eleventh off knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. The Yankees were heading to yet another World Series, crushing the championship aspirations of the Red Sox and their fans; but one thing lived on, The Curse of the Bambino.
In 2004, Alex Rodriguez joined the historic rivalry as a member of the New York Yankees, after nearly being dealt with the Boston Red Sox. During a game on July 24th, Bronson Arroyo drilled Rodriguez with an inside fastball on the left elbow. He made his way to first base slowly, staring Arroyo down while having some words. Sox captain Jason Varitek didn’t take a liking to this, and the two began to have words of their own. Varitek then pushed his catcher’s mitt into the face of Rodriguez, and as the two wrestled, the benches cleared, and both were then ejected. You will see this iconic image decorating the walls of Boston bars, or in fan’s memorabilia collections. The two teams would serve as the barrier between the opposing team and the desired World Series appearance, and meet in the 2004 ALCS. New York got out to a commanding three games to none series lead. No team in the history of the MLB had ever won a best-of-seven series after falling in this hole. Game 4, trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, entered the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. With odds stacked against the Sox, Kevin Millar entered the batter’s box and drew a leadoff walk. This would set up one of the most memorable plays in Boston sports history. Dave Roberts would enter as a pinch runner, with Bill Mueller at the plate, and would steal second and later score on a single by Mueller to tie the game. In the bottom of the twelfth, David Ortiz would put on his usual heroics and hit a walk-off home run. Game 5 also featured another dramatic finish, the Sox tied it up in the eighth inning, and in the fourteenth inning, David Ortiz would drive in Johnny Damon with a single for the game-winning run. Curt Schilling took the mound for Game 6 allowing one run over seven innings, and the birth of the legendary “bloody sock”. The Red Sox would go on to win 4-2, but not after yet another controversial call involving Alex Rodriguez, as he ran to first base, he punched the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove and was ruled out. The Curse of the Bambino was put to rest, and this time in the decisive Game 7, the Red Sox prevailed 10-3 to be crowned World Series Champions for the first time in 86 years.
It takes numerous All-Star level talents and personalities to renew this rivalry. Both the Red Sox and Yankees have their share of big-name players, both home-grown in their farm systems or brought in via trades or free agency. None bigger than 6’7” 280 pound Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who many may remember from his show in last season’s Home Run Derby. Judge finished second in the MVP race, tallying 52 home runs, 114 RBIs, and a .284 batting average. He comes into this season batting .296 with 9 home runs and 27 RBIs while batting second in the lineup. Acquired in an offseason trade with the Marlins was reining NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton who is coming of a season where he hit 59 Home runs and drove in 132 RBIs. Stanton has been underwhelming since his arrival, hitting just 7 home runs, and striking out an alarming 53 times in 150 plate appearances. Starting shortstop Didi Gregorius is off to a career year, batting .311 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs while providing the Yankees with a middle-of-the-order bat. Catcher Gary Sanchez comes into the series heavily criticized for his defense, a batting average below the Mendoza line at .198, but 9 home runs and 28 RBIs. Highly-touted second base prospect Gleyber Torres has lived up to the hype batting .327 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI’s since his highly anticipated promotion. The Yankees come in with a team batting average of .250, a .446 slugging percentage, 48 home runs, and a league-leading 197 runs scored.
The Sox have their own young superstar in outfielder Mookie Betts, who is the early favorite for AL MVP. Mookie leads the league with 13 home runs, 36 runs, 25 extra base hits, a .365 batting average, a .856 slugging percentage, and 1.298 OPS, to go along with 26 RBIs. Late offseason signee JD Martinez has been worth every penny and provided the Sox with the slugger they needed since David Ortiz’s retirement. JD comes in hitting .349 with 22 runs scored, 8 home runs, and 27 RBIs, and 8 doubles. Hanley Ramirez has had a bounce-back year since becoming the everyday first baseman again, hitting .297 with 3 home runs and 19 RBIs. Xander Bogaerts has come back from an injury and his bat has lived up to those expectations that made him a highly touted prospect. Xander is batting .333 with 3 home runs and 16 RBIs. Rafael Devers has been given the everyday third base job in his first full MLB season and has hit .260 with 6 home runs and 23 RBIs. Two members of the Red Sox outfield have been major disappointments so far this season, those being Jackie Bradley Jr and Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox rank second to the Yankees in runs scored with 192, hold a .269 team batting average, a .460 slugging percentage, and 46 home runs.
The Red Sox come in with a pitching staff that holds a 3.45 team ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and 341 strikeouts. Chris Sale is the ace of the staff and holds a 3-1 record to go with 63 strikeouts, a 2.02 ERA, and .94 WHIP. Starter Rick Porcello came into the season coming off a horrendous 2017 season but has rebounded to his CY Young form with a 5-0 start and a 2.14 ERA and .82 WHIP. David Price remains the biggest question mark of the rotation, and since his hot start has fallen off to a 2-4 record, paired with a 5.11 ERA and an astounding 1.41 WHIP. Rounding out Boston’s rotation is Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez who are still trying to find their form with late debuts to the season. The bullpen anchored by All-Star Craig Kimbrel who comes into the series with 9 saves, a 1.23 ERA, and a .75 WHIP.
The New York Yankees come in with an ace of their own in home-grown Luis Severino. He has been exceptional this season sporting a 5-1 record, 52 strikeouts, a 2.11 ERA and .85 WHIP. Joining him atop the rotation is Japanese star, Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka comes into the series with a 4-2 record, a 4.39 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Familiar face CC Sabathia is off to his best start to a season in a few years and has a 2-0 record, a 1.39 ERA and .97 WHIP. After an abysmal start to the season, 2017 mid-season acquisition Sonny Gray is starting to come around but holds a 2-2 record, a 6.00 ERA, and an inflated 1.76 WHIP. The Yankees Bullpen is filled with power arms and anchored by Cuban flamethrower Aroldis Chapman.
First-year managers Aaron Boone and Alex Cora have gotten their star-studded teams off to incredible starts to the 2018 season. Their decisions have helped impacted their run differential, as the Sox hold a +67 and the Yankees +62. Eyes will be on them heavily pertaining to every lineup change or call to the bullpen throughout the series. This three-game series will be a huge test to both teams, and crucial to who will come out atop the AL EAST. But it is great to know that the MLB’s greatest rivalry is back and set to take the stage throughout this summer’s pennant race.