Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (Oct. 4, 2018 – Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
Yes, I saw what happened this past weekend. No, I’m not a closet Yankees fan, nor did I suffer a stroke. I haven’t given up hope on this year’s version of the Boston Red Sox just yet, and while their chances of repeating as World Champions (or even making the postseason, for that matter) are dwindling with each loss, I still see a very talented team capable of surpassing all other AL Wild Card contenders. Furthermore, I actually want the Sox to cross paths with the Evil Empire in October, as crazy as it sounds.
I’m fully aware that Cora & Co. are 4-11 against their dreaded division foes so far this season. Though their odds of finishing first in the AL East for a fourth straight year are technically greater than zero as of this moment, it would be foolish to believe Boston will make the playoffs as anything other than a Wild Card team. All of this would suggest Fenway’s Faithful shouldn’t look forward to any future matchups with New York, but I’m here to give you reasons to believe the 2019 Red Sox can buck the current trend and ultimately end the Yankees season, if given the opportunity.
THIS IS ROCK BOTTOM
I know most of Red Sox Nation thought it couldn’t get worse than the 6-13 record that was staring us all in the face on April 18th yet here we are. The Yankees sweep extended the current losing streak to 8 games, Boston’s longest since the 2014 season.
At least it can’t get any worse.
The next win for the Sox will mark their first since the trade deadline, when Dave Dombrowski received some heavy criticism for doing virtually nothing. Once the team overcomes that hurdle, players should hopefully gain a little confidence and realize that this team is, in fact, one of the most talented in all of baseball, in its current state, without any reinforcements.
Boston’s overall record entering Monday is 59-55. Subtract the 6-13 Spring Training hangover and the current 0-6 skid since 4:01pm EST on July 31st, and the result is a 53-36 record. That win percentage of .596 wouldn’t put the team in first place of the division, but it would put them in position to host the Wild Card game.
Translation: the Red Sox are quite competitive when they’re not in the midst of a massive slump.
Slumps happen to every team, every year. In 2017, even the Astros lost 10 of 14 in August before the Dodgers lost 14 of 15 in September. Both were still heavy favorites to advance to World Series, and rightfully so, as that turned out to be the matchup most MLB fans anticipated. Somehow the 2018 Red Sox were the exception to the rule. They never got swept in a single series. They never even lost 4 in a row. Hell, their regular season ended with less losses than the 2019 Red Sox, and there’s still have 4 dozen games left in the schedule.
SPEAKING OF SCHEDULES…
Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but I couldn’t help but notice the Sox have already played 114 games, tied for the most in MLB, entering Monday. Meanwhile, the Yankees have only played 111 games. Of all the teams in the American League, only the lowly Detroit Tigers have more games remaining on their schedule. I know 3 games isn’t a lot, but the MLB regular season ends for every team on September 29th, meaning the Yankees will have to power through more games in the dog days of summer than any other playoff contender. Aaron Boone has the luxury of working with a huge divisional lead, but the circumstances are still less than ideal. Advantage Boston.
Another strange idiosyncrasy of recent events that stuck out to me was how Cora and Boone structured the pitching matchups in this series. Does anyone else find it oddly convenient that Masahiro Tanaka – who owns a 40.50 ERA over 2 starts (all of 4.0 innings) against Boston this year – didn’t face the Sox in a 4-game series? Maybe it’s a coincidence, but there’s always the possibility that Boone is afraid to use him against Boston. The numbers suggest he should be. Even stranger was the fact that Andrew Cashner – who shined his Sox/Yankees debut, and has been vocal about his disdain for the rival organization – wasn’t used in this crucial series. Perhaps Cora doesn’t want LeMahieu, Judge, and the rest of the New York’s lineup to get another look at Cashner until the stakes are higher.
Which leads me to my final (and most crucial) point…
THE YANKEES ROTATION ISN’T BUILT FOR THE PLAYOFFS
Let’s assume that the Yankees lock up the top seed in the American League, and the Red Sox squeak into the postseason and win the Wild Card game, using either Chris Sale or David Price. The other one is going to start Game 1 of the ALCS. Who’s Boone sending out? A recently-recovered Luis Severino? Bring. It. On. Severino has a career postseason ERA north of 6, and he was healthy for all 5 of those starts. As a Red Sox fan, I would love to see how he performs under the bright lights, less than a month removed from a summer-long IL stint.
Maybe Severino isn’t available. Next up would presumably be James Paxton, who does have a history of success against Boston, but after that, nobody in that rotation strikes hear in professional hitters. Even if Boston goes down 0-1, Boone would still have to choose between the aforementioned Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Domingo German, and C.C. Sabathia to take the ball for Games 2 and 3. As long as Mike Estabrook isn’t behind the plate, the highest-scoring lineup in baseball should be able to do considerable damage against those mediocre arms.
If Cashner continues to be New York’s kryptonite, and the 1-2 punch of Price and Sale (whoever starts the WC game should be available for Game 3 of the ALCS) can find their groove over the next two months, Boston’s Achilles heal may actually turn out to be a decided advantage.
Last year, trolling the Red Sox by playing “New York, New York” after Game 2 of the ALCS did not pan out well for Aaron Judge and his teammates. That win would turn out to be their last victory of 2018. In case you haven’t heard, the Bronx Brats were at it again Sunday night, audibly blasting “More Than a Feeling” in the clubhouse following their sweep of the Red Sox.
Let’s hope Boston (the team, not the band) can turn up the volume over the next couple months. If so, the Yankees might be singing the blues by the middle of October.