BY JOEY SEMEL AND MAX CURTIN
The last time these two teams met in the postseason, one of them shocked the world.
It was 2004. They were trying not only to end 86 years of misery, but also to become the first team in Major League Baseball history to come back from down 3-0 in a best-of-seven game series.
They did. It did shock the world. It shocked their opponent. It added to the most storied rivalry in the history of sports.
It was the Red Sox. They beat the Yankees. It was Yankees vs. Red Sox. And it’s back in the postseason and long overdue.
The series has been everything we could have hoped for. It is tied 1-1, and it has had everything we expected in those two games. Aaron Judge and J.D. Martinez hitting homers. Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka giving strong starts. Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel nailing the door shut. And, of course, some trash talk. The 31-year old rookie Ryan Brasier told the struggling Gary Sánchez to get his “f****ing a**”, back in the batter’s box. Brasier backed it up, winning the battle by striking Sanchez out. Sánchez won the war however, hitting two homers in a 6-2 Yankee win.
Not only is it the marquee matchup of the postseason, but it’s the marquee matchup in all of baseball. The teams finished this season’s series 10-9, typical for these two teams.
You want to know the most exciting part as a fan? During the course of those 19 games, there seemed to be genuine dislike for each other for the first time since that 2004 series. Earlier this year, Boston’s Joe Kelly hit New York’s Tyler Austin (later traded to Minnesota). Austin then charged the mound and swung at Kelly, causing the benches to clear.
Want more? This is just the second time in the Wild Card Era (since 1994) and just the 13th overall that two teams with over 100 wins will meet in the Postseason.
It is also interesting to look at how these team’s were built. The Red Sox look more like the “evil empire” than the Yankees do. All but one (CC Sabathia) of the important contributors are either built through the farm system, or trades from pieces that came from the farm system.
The Red Sox have a lot of pieces that came through the system as well, but also have 70 million more in payroll. They also have free agent additions like J.D. Martinez that have given huge boosts to this roster.
It’s the series baseball fans have been waiting for, and it’s bound to live up to the expectations.
While it is the marquee matchup, there’s plenty more going on in what is poised to be an incredible postseason.
Right from the start, the baseball world knew it was going to be special when we got two game 163’s. Two extra winner take all games. The Brewers and Cubs were tied atop the NL Central, and the Dodgers and Rockies tied for the NL West. In order to break that tie, played a game at Wrigley Field to decide what 162 games could not. Ultimately, the Brewers scored two in the top of the eighth inning, taking the game 3-1.
In the other 163rd game, the Dodgers and Rockies met at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers won 5-2 buoyed by a strong start from young ace Walker Buehler.
It set up the Rockies and Cubs meeting up for the NL Wild Card game. The Cubs had a second chance at home to send themselves onto a postseason series. They came up short again. Falling 2-1 in a wild 13-inning game. And, just because it is the postseason. The game-winner came from light-hitting catcher Tony Wolters.
As for the AL Wild Card game, the Yankees topped the Athletics in routine fashion. 25-year-old ace Luis Severino gave the Yankees 4 strong innings and Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton each homered.
That game was an important one because it showed the evolution of baseball. The Athletics decided to “bullpen” this game, meaning that rather than using a conventional starting pitcher, they opened the game with one of their relievers (Liam Hendriks) and only asked him to pitch an inning.
Bullpenning is the newest fad in the MLB, in large part thanks to the Tampa Bay Rays, who started this idea after three of their starting pitchers went down with injuries. While it did not work for the Athletics, it is something to watch next year.
As for the American League Division Series, we already covered Yankees vs. Red Sox, but it may not even be the best one in the Al
The defending champion Astros going up against a loaded Cleveland Indians team. Two close games have led to two Astros wins, largely on the back of under-the-radar MVP candidate Alex Bregman, who homered in both.
As for the NL, the Brewers have already swept the Wild-Card winning Rockies, but the other series might be one to watch.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who came into the postseason on a hot streak, are taking on the upstart Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers went up 2-0, including a win by a strong start from Clayton Kershaw, but the Braves fought back on Sunday, taking a narrow 6-5 win in front of their home fans.
While this series could be decided by the time this paper comes out, Monday night’s matchup will pin Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz against LA’s Rich Hill. Atlanta needs a win in front of their home crowd to force a decisive game 5.