The Yankees dropped a heart-breaker in game one versus the Red Sox, but they bounced back with a resounding victory in game two. Aaron Judge set the tone with a first-inning home run off David Price, and Masahiro Tanaka held Boston in check in a game that followed a similar script to the Yankees’ Wild Card Game triumph over the Athletics.
With the win in Boston, the Yankees became the first road team to emerge victorious in any of the divisional series, and evened the ALDS at 1-1. They showed last season that they are as capable as anyone of erasing a 2-0 deficit, but ensuring a split heading back to New York puts the Yankees in a much better position. What exactly are the Yankees’ chances of advancing now that they’ve tied the series?
Luis Severino will toe the rubber for game three in the Bronx, opposed by Nathan Eovaldi. CC Sabathia matches up with Rick Porcello in game four. Chris Sale would surely start a potential game five for the Red Sox. J.A. Happ started game one and was presumably intended to start game five, though Happ’s struggles in his first start and Tanaka’s success could throw a wrench in manager Aaron Boone’s plans.
Sale looms as a terror in a possible winner-take-all game, but the Yankees’ odds of moving on to the ALCS are actually fairly strong as of now. Take a look at their projected chances of winning each individual game throughout the rest of the series, courtesy of FanGraphs and Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections (note these have not been updated to reflect Boston flipping Eovaldi and Porcello, but the conclusions should remain largely the same):
ZiPS forecasts the Yankees as slight favorites in both games three and four, and pegs a pivotal game five as a coin-flip, despite Boston’s presumed starting pitching edge. ZiPS’ optimism isn’t hard to pin down. The projection system probably sees the Yankees home-field advantage over the next two games, as well as their significantly superior bullpen, as primary reasons to give the Yankees the edge as the series progresses.
These probabilities suggest that the Yankees have a 55 percent chance of winning the ALDS. That’s a pretty rosy forecast given the Yankees entered the series as nominal underdogs, a mere 100-win team squaring up against a historic 108-win juggernaut.
FanGraphs’ overall playoff odds, which incorporate Steamer projections, spit out a similar forecast, giving the Yankees roughly a 53 percent chance of moving on to the ALCS. FanGraphs gives the Yankees a 17 percent chance of winning the World Series currently, which lags behind the Astros in the American League, due to the Houston’s 2-0 series lead over Cleveland in the other ALDS.
Pretty much every major public projection system likes the Yankees odds. FiveThirtyEight gives the Yankees a 54 percent chance of advancing. None of these forecasts peg the Yankees as overwhelming favorites, but all of them agree that the Yankees probably have a small leg up.
This all makes intuitive sense. The Yankees have a chance to put their foot on Boston’s throat with their ace on the mound in game three. If Severino continues to look like as dominant as he was in the season’s first half, the Red Sox will be in major danger of watching their incredible campaign go straight down the drain. The Yankees’ clear advantage in terms of relief pitching also makes them better bets to advance in the playoffs.
Perhaps Boston will be staring elimination in the face on Tuesday night in game four. Maybe Porcello and Eovaldi will shove, shocking the Yankees in their home stadium. The latter seems less likely than the former at this point. Anything obviously can still happen, with the vagaries of short-series postseason baseball notably hard to predict. Yet this kind of series is what the Yankees are built for, what with their deep pitching staff and slugger-laden lineup. They have every chance to move on to the ALCS for the second straight year.