AL Wild Card Preview: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees

Who will reign supreme? Beantown or the Big Apple?

#4 Boston Red Sox vs #5 New York Yankees

Wild Card Game: Tuesday, Oct. 5, 8:08 PM ET, ESPN — Nathan Eovaldi (BOS) vs Gerrit Cole (NYY)


Recent History


The Red Sox won the season series 10-9, outscoring their rivals by the slimmest of margins—one run (75-74). But while that indicates a closely fought, back and forth series, it never really played out that way. It was a series of streaks, as Boston came out swinging by winning the first seven games of the season series. But the Yankees rallied back, eventually winning the last six, giving them momentum heading into the first winner-take-all game at Fenway Park between the long known adversaries since 1978—the Bucky Dent game.

The Red Sox will look to win their third playoff “series” in a row against New York tomorrow, previously winning the fabled 2004 ALCS and more recently the 2018 ALDS.


Boston Red Sox (92-70)



Projected Lineup For The Boston Red Sox

*Note: Stats for Schwarber and Shaw are with the Red Sox only. 


The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League in scoring this season with 829 runs and while the bulk of that damage came from the 2021 All-Star trio of Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez, three other names are of note.

Kiké Hernández has been a godsend to the team, not only with elite defensive prowess in center field (14 DRS, 7 OAA) but relishing in the leadoff spot once coming back off the IL on May 18, getting on base at a .347 clip while chipping in 16 home runs.

Then there’s trade deadline acquisition Kyle Schwarber, who has been phenomenal at the plate with a 161 wRC+ since putting on a Red Sox uniform. Typical to his style, the left-handed slugger has walked 19.6% of his plate appearances with Boston while only striking out in 23.2% of them—and the team has embraced that same approach:

Kyle Schwarber’s Impact on the Red Sox

Starting Pitcher


Nathan Eovaldi’s 2021 Season Statistics

Additionally, the recent news of Kevin Plawecki likely starting as the catcher over Christian Vázquez bodes well for Eovaldi who pitched significantly better to the former (3.28 ERA, 96 IP) than the latter (4.77 ERA, 66 IP).




Projected Boston Red Sox Bullpen

*Note: Stats for all pitchers are as a Red Sox reliever.


When Matt Barnes was pitching like the All-Star he was in the first half, the Red Sox bullpen had a much better outlook with Adam Ottavino and rookie sensation Garrett Whitlock holding it down till the ninth inning. But since the All-Star Break, Barnes has completely fallen apart to the tune of a 6.48 ERA, sending the team’s bullpen into flux as well (3.57 ERA first half, 4.49 ERA second half).

And while the harping on Boston’s reliever corps is valid, the postseason has allowed the Red Sox to manipulate the composition of the bullpen slightly. Tanner Houck has been lights out in the bullpen and offers the versatility in pitching potentially three or four innings in tomorrow’s game. Garrett Richards the reliever (3.42 ERA) is far better than Garrett Richards the starter (5.22 ERA), again offering the same length Houck offers. Then there’s Whitlock, who can also pitch multiple innings—likely two in his case. In total, Boston’s bullpen can manage the postseason far better than the regular season with three guys with multi-inning versatility.


How They Got Here


The Red Sox defied expectations by getting out to a hot start, going 55-36 into the All-Star Break. The pitching was doing just enough, while the hitting was phenomenal. And on the day of the Trade Deadline, the Red Sox sat 63-42—a whole 21 games above .500—and were entering a crucial series in Tampa Bay, who sat only half a game back—a golden opportunity for the Sox to put distance between the rest of the pack. Instead, Boston subsequently got swept and entered a grueling second half in which wins were very hard to come by. Finishing with a 92-70 record, the Red Sox were essentially a .500 club since July 30 with a 29-28 record—but not simply by alternating games with wins and losses. There was a stretch in which they lost ten of thirteen, starting with the Trade Deadline, which included five losses to the Rays. Then there was the aforementioned seven-game win streak. After, they lost five of six before winning the final three games of the season. Again, not convincing, but it could just mean that Boston’s due for one more win.


Potential Breakout Star of the Game


This is a pretty tough question, given Kiké Hernández’s numbers (5-11, 2 2B, 1 HR, BB) against Gerrit Cole, but the answer to this question is Bobby Dalbec. He’s got 40 home run power and has tapped into that potential by becoming arguably the most dominant hitter in the game since the Trade Deadline on July 30, as previously mentioned. The Red Sox will need every bit of that player to show up with J.D. Martinez seemingly unlikely to do more than pinch-hit.


If the Red Sox win, it’s because…


They play fundamental defense. This is a hard one to expect given that the team ranks dead last in both defensive runs saved and outs above average in all of baseball. This means all the outfielders backing up balls off the Green Monster to prevent extra bases, hitting cut-off men on throws, and for Bogaerts and Devers to—at least—play average defensively at their positions. And even though the absence of José Iglesias—not available for the postseason roster—will be noticed, Christian Arroyo has been fine in that regard and there shouldn’t be too steep a drop-off. The key here is if J.D. Martinez plays or not. While Martinez is a great hitter, not having him in the lineup would allow Schwarber to shift into the DH spot and Dalbec would play at first base. Dalbec (-7 DRS, -7 OAA) has been pretty poor at the position, he’s still much better than someone who has never played the position before a month ago in Schwarber.




After winning seven in a row in mid-September, the Red Sox were seemingly on top of the Wild Card hunt and could potentially rest the final weekend where Chris Sale would be starting over Eovaldi. But then came a sweep at the hands of the Yankees, losing a series to the lowly Orioles, then grinding a sweep over the Nationals, just enough to make the playoffs but far from convincing leading into the Wild Card game. That being said, Rafael Devers seemed to have his swing on point in Game 162 when the team needed him most, blasting two home runs to center field with picturesque swings that even Tiger Woods would be proud of. And with that, it might just be enough to carry the Red Sox over the line. Red Sox win 5-4.

– Jai Correa



Recent History


It was an up and down season for the Yankees when it came to the Red Sox, and thanks to some late September heroics, the team ended with a 9-10 record against Boston. In their final series of the year, the Yankees swept Boston in Fenway and managed to jump out in front of the pack to host the Wild Card game. Unfortunately for them, though, a 3-3 record the rest of the way against Toronto and Tampa Bay, the Red Sox were able to secure the same record as New York and will host due to their superior head to head record. It’s no secret that these teams have a deep rivalry that will surely produce some thrilling baseball on Tuesday night. 

The two teams last met in the postseason back in 2018, when the Red Sox dispatched New York in four games in the ALDS, going on to win the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The ALDS was at one point tied at one game a piece, but an embarrassing 16-1 loss in Game Three at Yankee Stadium led to the Bronx Bombers getting unceremoniously bounced the following night. No doubt the Yankees will look for a different outcome in the do-or-die Wild Card.


New York Yankees (92-70)




Order Player Position Hits Stats
1 Gleyber Torres 2B R 127 G, 516 PA, .259/.331/.366, 9 HR, 94 wRC+, .307 wOBA
2 Anthony Rizzo 1B L 141 G, 576 PA, .248/.344/.440, 22 HR, 112 wRC+, .339 wOBA
3 Aaron Judge RF R 148 G, 633 PA, .287/.373/.544, 39 HR, 148 wRC+, .387 wOBA
4 Giancarlo Stanton DH R 139 G, 579 PA, .273/.354/.516, 35 HR, 137 wRC+, .370 wOBA
5 Joey Gallo LF L 153 G, 616 PA, .199/.351/.458, 38 HR, 123 wRC+, .348 wOBA
6 Gio Urshela SS R 116 G, 442 PA, .267/.301/.419, 14 HR, 96 wRC+, .309 wOBA
7 Kyle Higashioka C R 67 G, 211 PA, .181/.246/.389, 10 HR, 71 wRC+, .272 wOBA
8 Brett Gardner CF L 140 G, 461 PA, .222/.327/.362, 10 HR, 93 wRC+, .305 wOBA
9 Rougned Odor 3B L 102 G, 361 PA, .202/.286/.379, 15 HR, 83 wRC+, .289 wOBA


The lineup will look a bit different than usual for New York, as both Luke Voit and DJ LeMahieu were placed on the IL earlier this week. Voit’s knee issues flared up again and he is out for the season, while LeMahieu suffered a sports hernia and is likely out for most of the postseason. 

Instead, the Yankees will lean heavily on the bats of Rizzo, Judge, and Stanton to do the heavy lifting. Judge and Stanton have both put together excellent seasons and more importantly, they have both managed to stay relatively healthy at the same time. Joey Gallo was a hot commodity at the trade deadline, but his production in pinstripes has been very underwhelming—a .160/.303/.404 line in 58 games for New York. His 13 home runs have been helpful, but not enough to assuage the unsightly triple slash.

The bottom half of the lineup is where things get dicey. LeMahieu’s injury forces Gio Urshela into the shortstop role (as well as Odor into 3B duties) and neither of the pair has been a major threat at the plate. Odor has shown a propensity to run into the occasional home run, but his defense at 3B, which is not his natural position, has been lacking. The team could also deploy Odor at 2B, with Gleyber Torres back at short and Gio at 3B. It remains to be seen what Aaron Boone will do. 

Finally, Brett Gardner has somehow managed to play in 140 games this year despite all of the Yankee outfield additions. This is mainly due to the injury to Aaron Hicks, but Gardner managing to get 140 games in the outfield on this roster is still impressive. Gardner, now 38, has seen a noticeable dip in production at the plate after enjoying a slight resurgence in 2019-2020. 

The Yankees lineup as a whole has been quite underwhelming, scoring 711 runs (4.4 per game) which is good for 19th in the league. Their 222 home runs, however, is good for 9th in the league, which is understandable given their power bats and smaller home stadium. In a year when the offense was supposed to be the strength of the squad, injuries and poor production have marred their progress. 


Starting Pitcher

Gerrit Cole’s 2021 Statistics

30 181.1 3.23 2.92 1.06 33.5 5.6


The Yankees will send their ace Gerrit Cole to the mound for the Wild Card game, which is a luxury given the fact that Cole was also scheduled to pitch any hypothetical Game 163. While Cole has experienced a significant uptick in his ERA this year, he is still one of if not the best starter in the American League, and will certainly be in the conversation for AL Cy Young. 

While Cole’s recent starts have been a bit hard to look at (15 ER in 17.2 IP) it is 100% the right call for the Yankees to go with their best arm in a do-or-die situation. For 2021, Cole has struggled against the Sox, posting a 4.91 ERA to their rivals, although he did have a 6.0 IP, 3 ER quality start against them back on September 24th. Aaron Boone will put the ball in Cole’s hand and hope his postseason-hardened mindset and natural skill take over. 




Role Player Throws IP SV ERA FIP WHIP K% BB%
Closer Aroldis Chapman L 56.1  30 3.36 3.99 1.31 39.9 15.6
Setup Jonathan Loaisiga R 70.2 5 2.17 2.58 1.02 24.4 5.7
Setup Chad Green R 83,2 6 3.12 3.59 0.88 31.4 5.4
Mid Clay Holmes R 70.0 0 3.60 3.28 1.17 26.7 9.9
Mid Wandy Peralta L 51.0 5 3.35 4.31 1.37 19.6 9.6
Mid Lucas Luetge L 72.1 1 2.74 2.84 1.13 25.9 5.0
Mid Joely Rodriguez L 46.1 1 4.66 3.43 1.53 22.7 8.7
Mid Luis Severino R 6.0 0 0.00 1.50 0.50 36.4 4.5
Long Domingo German R 98.1 0 4.58 4.31 1.18 23.9 6.6
Long Nestor Cortes L 93.0 0 2.90  3.78 1.08 27.5 6.7


In a somewhat disappointing year for New York, the bullpen carries none of the blame. The relief arms at Aaron Boone’s disposal have been incredibly effective, and the current squad may be at its strongest yet. Aroldis Chapman remains entrenched in the closer role, and while his velocity isn’t consistently well over 100 MPH anymore, he still manages to generate a ton of strikeouts. If the Yankees have a lead in the 9th, you can bet the smart money on Chapman being on the mound.

The setup crew is no slouch either. Jonathan Loaisiga has been an incredibly productive pitcher since permanently moving to the bullpen. He could very well be a closer in his own right but obviously cedes that role to Chapman. Loaisiga has been a go-to guy for Aaron Boone this season, and you will most likely see the fireman be deployed in a tight spot.

Chad Green, despite his occasional blow-up, has also had success in 2021, posting his lowest ERA since 2018. Joining him in middle relief is Clay Holmes, who has completely turned his season around since coming over from the Pirates. Holmes has had 25 appearances for New York and posted a 1.61 ERA with a 10.9 K/9. He has quickly pitched himself into Boone’s circle of trust, and could easily see game time if Cole is chased from the game early. 

Speaking of career resurgences, Lucas Luetge has also been a pleasant surprise, posting a 2.74 ERA across 57 appearances despite not pitching in the majors since 2015. He and Wandy Peralta, acquired from the Giants earlier this year, will fill out the middle innings crew and, like Holmes, may see action if the game either gets out of hand or goes into extras. 




Player Position Hits Stats
Gary Sanchez C R 117 G, 440 PA, .204/.307/.423, 23 HR, 99 wRC+, .314 wOBA
Andrew Velazquez INF S 28 G, 68 PA, .224/.235/.358, 1 HR, 57 wRC+, .252 wOBA
Tyler Wade INF/OF L 103 G, 145 PA, .268/.354/.323, 0 HR, 92 wRC+, .304 wOBA
Rob Brantly C L 6 G, 21 PA, .150/.190/.200, 0 HR, 7 wRC+, .177 wOBA
Greg Allen OF S 15 G, 41 PA, .270/.417/.432, 0 HR, 140 wRC+, .376 wOBA


Kyle Higashioka has been the primary backup to Gary Sanchez, and has served as Gerrit Cole’s “personal catcher” for the most part, and that will not change on Tuesday. Aaron Boone announced that Higashioka will get the start over Sanchez leaving Sanchez as a late-game pinch hitting option. While Sanchez has struggled this season, his power bat off the bench could work in Boone’s favor late in the game. The Yankees will also carry a 3rd catcher in Rob Brantly. Brantly didn’t get much work at the major league level this season, but he provides a defensive safety net behind the plate should Sanchez enter into the game in a pinch hitting scenario. 

The other player who could come up big off the bench is Tyler Wade. Wade’s 94th percentile sprint speed makes him a major pinch running threat for Boone to deploy. While his power is basically nil, Wade makes up for it with good on-base ability and excellent wheels. Look for Wade to come off the bench when some speed on the bases is required. The same can be said for Greg Allen, who doesn’t have the same speed as Wade, but can definitely make his presence known.


How They Got Here


The Yankees couldn’t have asked for a better series against the Red Sox back in late September. New York swept the Red Sox in three games at Fenway and all but cemented their playoff-bound status. The Yankees were aided by some clutch hitting, but none more important than Giancarlo Stanton, who tallied 10 RBI and 3 HR during the three-game set. He will look to keep that pace going on Tuesday, and I’m sure he is itching to return to Fenway. 

But it hasn’t been all roses for the Yankees in 2021. Another down year from both Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez was a major letdown for both the team and the players’ own development. A late-season move back to 2B was a much-needed move for Torres, but it remains to be seen if he can recapture his wonderful production from 2018-2019. Another issue was DJ LeMahieu’s power dip. After hitting 26 homers in his debut season with the Yankees back in 2019, LeMahieu only managed to hit 10 this year, matching his total from the shortened 2020 season. Far from ideal for a player the Yankees have invested a lot into. 

The Yankees knew they needed help at the deadline and boy did they go out and get it. Acquiring both Anthony Rizzo from the Cubs and Joey Gallo from the Rangers were massive moves for Brian Cashman, but unfortunately only one has paid off so far. The aforementioned Gallo has struggled mightily in New York, while Rizzo has thrived. Since coming over from Chicago, Rizzo has hit .249/.340/.428 with 8 HR. His excellent defense at 1B is also a welcome sight, and his presence has become all the more important with the injury to Luke Voit

On the starting pitching side of things, the Yankees have lagged a bit. Their starters posted a combined 3.91 ERA/4.01 FIP but a strong 25.8 K%. Cole has manned the helm admirably and Jordan Montgomery (3.83 ERA/3.69 FIP) has looked to take somewhat of a step forward in his development, his most recent disaster start notwithstanding. Corey Kluber (3.83 ERA/3.84 FIP), who was signed as a mid-rotation reclamation project, lost most of the season to injury and has only managed 16 starts. Jameson Taillon (4.30 ERA/4.43 WHIP), another send-off from Pittsburgh, had stretches of brilliance and stretches of maddening ineffectiveness, leading to a very “meh” season overall. While the bullpen has been a major strength and the lineup has been disappointing, the starting pitching falls somewhere in the middle. 


Potential Breakout Star of the Game


I’m going to make a complete dart throw here and say Gleyber Torres. Despite his lacking overall production, Torres has been swinging a hot bat lately. Since September 1st, Torres has hit .280/.339/.420 with 3 HR and 2 SB in 109 PA. With the recent injury to DJ LeMahieu, Torres also looks to be in line to possibly lead off, giving him plenty of opportunities to score given the trio of Rizzo, Judge, and Stanton behind him. 


If the Yankees win, it’s because…


If the Yankees do win this, I believe it will be the bullpen locking down the Sox bats in the late game. Both of these teams are tremendously talented, so it’s hard to imagine a handful of runs not being scored on both sides. Barring a huge performance out of Cole, the Yankees are going to need their shutdown pen coming in clutch and not letting the Sox back into the game. The trio of Chapman, Loaisiga, and Green all have a huge chance to be involved, and allowing the Red Sox to whittle away at a Yankee lead will be a nightmare to overcome. 




While the Yankees in Fenway sounds like a recipe for disaster, I am going to go with the Yankees winning this one on the back of Gerrit Cole. After being bounced from the playoffs in his first season in New York, I can envision a world where Cole goes full bulldog and drags this team into the ALDS whether they like it or not. Yankees win 5-3.

– Liam Casey

Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Jai Correa

Jai Correa is an alumnus of UMass Amherst. He is incredibly passionate about the Red Sox, Indian cricket and economics.

3 responses to “AL Wild Card Preview: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees”

  1. Ross Redcay says:

    Came here for one reason and one reason only: to compliment the graphics team on another masterpiece. Well done!

  2. Timothy Blair says:

    Looking forward to this, gonna be intense!

  3. Heath Workman says:

    Do you have any content in the works regarding the potential lockout?

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