The Yankees (100-62) and Athletics (97-65) will tangle in the American League wild card game on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, with the winner moving on to face the Red Sox (108-54) in the ALDS starting Friday at Fenway Park.
New York and Oakland were familiar postseason foes for the Red Sox last decade, as the Sox met the Yankees in the ALCS in 2003 and 2004 and met the A’s in the ALDS in 2003.
But it’s been awhile.
As for more recent clashes, the Sox went 10-9 against the Yankees this season and went 2-4 against Oakland. Those six Oakland games took place way back in April and May, and needless to say much has changed for both teams since that time.
The Yankees and Red Sox, on the other hand, played 10 games against one another over the past two months. The Sox ripped through the Yankees in early August, completing a memorable four-game sweep of their rivals at Fenway. But in September the Yankees got the best of Boston – taking four of the six games played.
The Red Sox, of course, coasted through September having more or less wrapped up the division before Labor Day. So even those recent Sox – Yanks tilts don’t reveal much of an advantage on either side.
What will help for the Red Sox if they do face the Yankees is that Alex Cora has lined things up so that Price will not have to pitch on the road. As has been well publicized, Price has had nightmarish outings in the Bronx.
Price and the entire Red Sox pitching staff will have to be on point if they plan on moving on to the ALCS, as both the Yankees and A’s are among the top five teams in baseball in total runs scored this season. Both teams got the brunt of those runs via the long ball as the Yankees whacked 267 homers this season (first in MLB) while the A’s slammed 227 (third in MLB).
The Red Sox offense looks primed to go in October as the Sox led the majors in runs scored this season with 876. The Sox are not limping into the postseason at the plate either as in the final week of the season they averaged 8.6 runs per game.
Will Sale be good to go?
“That’s great, but let’s see what happens in October” has been the prevailing thought for Red Sox fans over these past six months.
Well, October is here and we’re about to get some answers.
The biggest question has long been centered on ace Chris Sale, who is likely to win the American League Cy Young Award despite having started just five games since the end of July. In fact, Sale hasn’t pitched more than five innings in a game since Aug. 12.
Last week against the Orioles, Sale looked weak – having to throw 92 pitches just to get to the fifth inning. He allowed three earned runs in the game, a 10-3 Red Sox loss.
The great fear heading into Game 1 of the ALDS this coming Friday is that Sale’s shoulder is still hurt. His velocity in the Baltimore game averaged just 90.2 mph – which was the lowest mph number in any game he has ever pitched in the majors.
The Red Sox are saying that Sale’s recent issues are due to a mechanical issue, not an injury. Either way, it’s fair to be skeptical that Sale will be able to dominate on Friday at Fenway. We are, after all, still talking about a player that has never won a postseason playoff game.
“He’s not firing his hips like he normally does,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Sale. “Hopefully he will find his mechanics again and he will be ready to go … Even though the velocity is not where it was in the summer, it becomes a lot better. We’ll see where we are with that. Obviously, we expect him to fix it and be ready for October.”
Sale was honest about his situation, as it’s clearly not where he or the Red Sox wanted to be just days away from the start of the postseason.
“You get out of whack, and have just got to find a way to get back into a groove. Obviously I’m not where I want to be,” Sale said. “But those are hard adjustments to make on the fly sometimes. So you try to figure it out. When you see it, when you look at it and visibly see it, it helps. We’ll address it and try to correct it.”
Cora announced who his starters would be in Games 1-3 of the ALDS against either the Yankees or A’s, as Sale is set to go in Game 1 Friday, David Price will get the ball on Saturday at Fenway, and Rick Porcello will get the ball on the road on Monday.