With the other three division series wrapped up in just 10 games among them, we’re left with the drawn-out drama of the Red Sox aiming to eliminate the Yankees in New York for the first time (in their first opportunity) since 2004. If you’re looking for a sign that this might be Boston’s year, look no further if they pull it off on Tuesday night.
The most important thing of the day: A Red Sox series victory would create a matchup in the American League Championship Series almost exactly like the one already on tap in the National League Championship Series: Last year’s pennant winner would get to face the team that had the best record in their league in 2018. Such a scenario would pit the 108-win Red Sox against the reigning world champs, the Houston Astros, who completed their AL Division Series sweep of the Cleveland Indians on Monday.
ALDS Game 4: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees
The stakes: The Red Sox ran their postseason win streak against the Yankees in New York to three with Monday’s victory. Now the question is whether the Red Sox can eliminate the Bombers in the Bronx again, just like they did in 2004. Standing between them and a nice echo from that historic breakthrough season for the Red Sox is Sabathia, who is 6-1 with a 2.97 ERA against Boston in 10 starts over the past three seasons.
If the Red Sox win: Boston advances to the ALCS and a superteam showdown against the Astros, starting on Saturday. By doing so, they also will have narrowed their all-time postseason record against the Yankees to 11-12.
If the Yankees win: Buckle up for some must-win Game 5 drama on Thursday at Fenway Park. The Red Sox should be able to turn to Game 1 starter (and winner) Chris Sale, while the Yankees could pick between J.A. Happ on long rest or Masahiro Tanaka on regular rest.
One key stat to know: Porcello has just two quality starts and one win in seven starts for the Detroit Tigers and the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, which adds up to a 5.56 ERA and a 1.420 WHIP. His team lost the other six games. So Porcello’s track record in this park isn’t great … but does Red Sox manager Alex Cora really want to go to his bullpen any earlier than he has to?
The matchup that matters most: Sabathia versus the Red Sox’s big right-handed bats. The lefty has a strong track record for shutting down J.D. Martinez, including 0-for-6 with a walk this season, but Mookie Betts has a 1.050 OPS in 35 plate appearances, and Steve Pearce has hit a trio of home runs against him in 41 at-bats. If big, early blows are going to be struck, Betts and Pearce might be the hitters to provide them.
The prediction: The Yankees had won seven straight playoff games at home until the Red Sox beat up Luis Severino and Lance Lynn in Game 3. But the series isn’t over. Yankees fans can remind themselves that they beat the Red Sox 19-8 in Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS — only to lose the next four games. (Wait, maybe that’s a bad reminder.) Aaron Boone waited too long to pull Severino on Monday, but he won’t make that mistake with Sabathia. Look for Dellin Betances to go at least two innings, Zach Britton and David Robertson to get maybe four outs apiece, and Aroldis Chapman to close it out. We go back to Fenway. Yankees 4, Red Sox 2. — David Schoenfield