Red Sox-Yankees ALDS preview by the numbers
We Meet Again
For the first time in 14 years, baseball's best rivalry will add another postseason chapter. But after three ALCS matchups in six seasons from 1999-2004, this time the Red Sox will square off against the Yankees in the ALDS - the first time since 1977 that two 100-win teams will meet in the postseason prior to the World Series. The last time was the '77 Yankees-Royals ALCS.
Before the series kicks off tonight at Fenway, here's a look at some of the key numbers that could play a role over the next week.
Regular Season Review
It shouldn't be a surprise that Boston finished with just a 10-9 edge the season series. After all, the two teams are 57-57 against each other in the past six seasons. But while the season series was close, the games mostly weren't. Seven of the 19 games were decided by seven runs or more, while only four games were decided by two runs or less.
Luckily for the Sox, home-field advantage was crucial in 2018. Boston was 7-3 against New York at Fenway Park but just 3-6 at Yankee Stadium.
Both Game 1 starters have had a lot of success against the lineup they'll face tonight. Chris Sale won both his starts against New York in 2018, striking out 19 in 13 innings, while J.A. Happ was had a sub-2 ERA in four starts against Boston (two with New York, two with Toronto). There is an interesting note to Happ's success - in both of his starts at Fenway Park this season, he gave up grand slams.
It's a different story for the Game 2 starters. The Sox offense racked up a .345 average and six home runs off Masahiro Tanaka in four games this season, while David Price's struggles with the Yankees are well documented. A 10.34 ERA almost makes you forget about his 5.74 ERA as a playoff starter... almost.
A Mound of Problems
Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Craig Kimbrel have combined for 19 All-Star appearances and two Cy Young awards, but in the postseason these studs have turned to duds. They've combined to go 2-14 in the playoffs with a Drew Pomeranz-esque 5.12 ERA. Their teams have gone just 7-33 in their 40 playoff appearances, and Porcello's teams are 0-11 in his 11 postseason games.
Mookie Betts is the odds-on favorite to win the A.L. MVP award, and as good as he was against the rest of the league, he was even better against the Yankees.
Betts hit .415/.506/.738 with three HR and 15 RBI in 17 games against New York this season, and his 22 runs and 14 XBH were the most of any Yankee opponent in 2018.
The Gruesome Twosome
Here's a bit of breaking news: Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are pretty good hitters. The A's learned that well-known fact Wednesday when both sluggers went yard in the Bronx - and the Sox had their share of issues with the Yankee bash brothers this season.
Both Stanton and Judge hit five home runs off Red Sox pitching this season as they combined for an astronomical 1.112 OPS.
Going, Going, Gone
Even though they led the barrage en route to an MLB-record 267 home runs this season, Stanton and Judge aren't the only Yankee hitters to watch out for over the next week.
Twelve Yankees hit at least 10 homers this season, including Luke Voit, who has blasted 14 in 39 games since being acquired from the Cardinals. This list doesn't even include Andrew McCutchen, who totaled 20 home runs this season between the Giants and the Yanks.
Heart Attack Closers
When a team takes a lead into the ninth inning this series, don't assume the game is over, since both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman blew saves against the other's team this season. But Kimbrel only had a 4.76 ERA against New York. That's nothing compared to Chapman's sky-high 10.50 ERA and 2.17 WHIP against Boston.
However, both pitchers are still strikeout machines, combining for 24 K's in 11.2 IP in head-to-head matchups in 2018.
108 Down, 11 To Go
With 108 wins this year, the Red Sox set a single-season franchise record, breaking the previous mark of 105, which had been set 106 years ago in Fenway Park's inaugural season of 1912.
The Sox became the 12th team in major league history to win at least 108 games in a season. Ten of the previous 11 reached the World Series, with seven of them winning a championship. The lone exception? The 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won a record 116 games in the regular season before bowing out in the ALCS.
Place Your Bets
Las Vegas likes Boston's chances of winning a fourth World Series in 15 seasons. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has installed the Red Sox as 3/1 favorites to win the Fall Classic, slightly better than the defending champion Astros, who have 7/2 odds.
The Atlanta Braves are the longshot out of the eight teams remaining, getting 12/1 odds to win their first World Series since 1995.
Mark Your Calendars
While some teams have to play afternoon games during the Division Series, the Red Sox are strictly a primetime bunch. MLB announced updated times for the rest of the ALDS on Thursday afternoon, and all five games (if the series lasts that long) will be played under the lights.
The Sox probably wouldn't have minded a matinee. Their record in day games was 36-10 (.783 win %) while they were 72-44 (.621) in night games.