The 2021 regular season has come to a close and playoff baseball kicks off tonight with the American League Wild Card Game.
With the playoffs starting tonight, now is the perfect time for us here at District On Deck to give our predictions for each first-round matchup. We will begin with the Wild Card games.
Boston Red Sox Vs. New York Yankees
Baseball fans may have been robbed of two game 163’s, but a Yankees Red Sox Wild Card game is quite a consolation prize. Arguably the best rivalry in all of sports, the two face off in a do-or-die game at Fenway Park.
The two teams took completely different paths to reach this point. For Boston, some believed after they finished last in the AL East during the shortened 2020 season, it was time to blow it up. Instead, they jumped out to a blazing start, entering the All-Star break at 55-36. During the second half of the season, Boston was struck by COVID, going 37-34 after the All-Star break.
A major reason for Boston’s renaissance was the offense rediscovering what made them so dangerous during the 2010s. They finished the season fifth in the AL in wRC+ (107), fifth in fWAR (23.8), sixth in homers (219), third in batting average (.261), and third in OPS (.777).
Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D. Martinez lead the way, but they have plenty of support. Kyle Schwarber, Alex Verdugo, Bobby Dalbec, Hunter Renfroe, and Enrique Hernández have helped balance out the lineup.
Ace Chris Sale pitched game 162, so Nathan Eovaldi will be on the bump. The former Yankee had a bounce-back year, going 11-9, with a 3.75 ERA, 195 strikeouts, and a 2.79 FIP. Behind him will be Hirokazu Sawamura, Matt Barnes, Garrett Whitlock, and Adam Ottavino.
The New York Yankees entered the season with immense expectations and were seen by many as World Series favorites. With a revamped pitching staff and one of the most lethal offenses in the game, the sky was the limit. Unfortunately, they tripped out of the gate and limped into the All-Star break at 46-43.
But at the trade deadline, they made a flurry of moves which helped them jumpstart the team. Most notably, they added Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo. New York’s offense will go as far as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton take them. Both were able to stay mostly healthy, combining for 74 homers and 195 RBIs.
New York rode a 46-27 second half to a fifth straight playoff appearance. While the starting rotation has been inconsistent, the Yankees will have Gerrit Cole on the mound. The only constant in their rotation, Cole had another stellar year and will once again be a finalist for the AL Cy Young. This year, he went 16-8, with a 3.23 ERA, 243 strikeouts, and a 2.92 FIP.
The Yankees bullpen is still one of the best in the game, finishing second in the AL in ERA (3.56), third in saves (47) and fWAR (7.5), and fourth in FIP (3.76).
Prediction: Gerrit Cole will rise to the occasion and lead the Yankees to an upset in Boston.