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The One Everybody Wants: Sox Vs. Yanks

October 3, 2018

Mookie Betts and the Red Sox open their playoff push on Friday against either the Yankees or Athletics. AP PHOTO

Major League Baseball is banking on the sport’s greatest rivalry getting renewed this weekend in an American League Division Series.

That’s why the Boston Red Sox are slated to host Game 1 of the ALDS on Friday night at 7:32 p.m., and Game 2 on Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. That’s back-to-back nights of primetime. And, believe me, that’s not a decision based on a nationwide public thirst to watch the Oakland Athletics. Outside of the Bay Area, that thirst doesn’t exist.

This is all about Boston and New York, and the powers-that-be at the MLB offices are crossing their fingers and toes, hoping it comes to fruition.

The Yankees, of course, will have to defeat the A’s on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium in a win-or-go-home wild card game. The winner will get the Sox in a best-of-five. If you love baseball, and you love intrigue, and you love drama, you have to be rooting for the Yanks on Wednesday night. Heck, if you have a pulse, you have to be rooting for the Yanks.

There are likely some loyal Red Sox honks out there who undoubtedly want the path of least resistance. That would be the A’s, in spite of their very respectable 97-65 record. They play hard, they’re a great small payroll story, but they aren’t as good as the Yankees.

Quick, name one of Oakland’s starting pitchers...

Couldn’t do it, could you?

Boston shouldn’t need an easy path. The Sox did, after all, finish with an MLB-best 108 wins. The Yankees are the owners of the third-best record in all of baseball at 100-62. It’s a very rare occasion to see two teams with triple-digit win totals go toe-to-toe in the ALDS. Let alone two fierce rivals.

We all need Red Sox-Yankees, the same way we did in 2003 and 2004.

It’s OK to be tense, Red Sox fans. It’s natural. This is the postseason and Boston has been swept out of it in each of the last two seasons. Not even 108 wins can calm the nerves because, deep down, most of us are fully-aware that Red Sox-Yankees would be a coin-flip series.

Both teams have first-year managers in Alex Cora and Aaron Boone. Both teams have powerful lineups. Both teams have unpredictable but potentially really good starting pitching.

The bullpens? Well, that’s another question. A distinctive edge goes to the Yanks, although the Red Sox pen is closer to the middle of the pack than the absolute failure many talk radio callers would lead you to believe. But when you’re dealing with unpredictable starting pitching and modern-day tendencies of managers to pull starters with the first sign of trouble in the playoffs, those bullpens will come in handy.

We do know this, Red Sox hurlers Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello have a combined postseason record of 2-13. Price has the two wins and neither came as a starter. Yanks’ pitchers Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ are a combined 4-4 in the postseason, but Tanaka has a 1.44 ERA in four starts. Veteran CC Sabathia may be 38-years-old, but he could also be a beneficial contributor for New York. He has 10 career postseason wins.

None of this matters if the Yanks can’t beat Oakland on Wednesday night. If the A’s and their cast of unknowns get the job done, the juiciest headline will be Jed Lowrie making his return to Boston. And, I’m sorry that’s just not juicy. Sure, the A’s can hit the longball, led by Khris Davis, who belted an MLB-best 48 homers. But they don’t move the dial. They’re not primetime material.

It’s October and we have a chance to see the Red Sox and Yankees duke it out in the MLB playoffs. We’d be crazy not to want that.

So grab a seat on Wednesday night and pull for the pinstripes.

Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone

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