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American League Wild Card Game: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

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The Yankees begin their playoff push tonight in the American League Wild Card Game against the rival Red Sox

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

This is it; the big day is finally here. What better way to kick off the 2021 MLB Postseason than a winner-take-all matchup between the game’s most storied rivals? The Yankees and Red Sox both punched their tickets to the American League Wild Card Game with wins on the final day of the regular season, avoiding a potential Game-163 scenario. You couldn’t ask for a more even matchup, with the Red Sox winning the season series 10-9 with an overall run tally of 75-74. It’s win-or-go-home in this one-game playoff, so no surprise to see both teams run out their aces for what promises to be a heated contest.

Despite some hiccups towards the end of the regular season, there is no Yankees starter I’d prefer to take the hill than Gerrit Cole. There is a reason why he is the highest-paid pitcher in baseball, and it’s exactly for games like this one. He possesses that killer mentality, believing he will go out and dominate no matter the situation. Most importantly, he has a history of shifting into another gear with the season on the line. In 30 starts this year, Cole went 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 243 strikeouts in 181.1 innings.

Nathan Eovaldi was undoubtedly Boston’s best starter this season, as well as one of the most consistent pitchers in all of baseball. He accrued the third-most fWAR (5.6) of any starting pitcher and sat 12th in K-BB% (20.9 percent) and innings pitched (182.1). He also mostly dominated the Yankees this season, owning a 3.71 ERA, 3.61 FIP, and 34:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts. That said, the Yankees tagged him for seven runs on seven hits in only 2.2 innings in their last encounter. In 32 starts overall, Eovaldi went 11-9 with a 3.75 ERA, 2.79 FIP, and 195 strikeouts in 182.1 innings.

The Yankees make a few tweaks to the lineup they’ve been running out over the last week. Anthony Rizzo bats leadoff while Andrew Velazquez gets the start at shortstop, allowing Gio Urshela to man his natural position at third base. As expected, Kyle Higashioka will start behind the plate with Cole on the mound, though Gary Sánchez is especially likely to pinch-hit at some point since the Yankees also have a third catcher on the roster for this one game in Rob Brantly.

Giancarlo Stanton went God-mode in the Yankees’ sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway two weeks ago, launching lead-extending home runs in each of the three games. As I said above, the Yankees have the blueprint to get to Eovaldi; now, they just need to go out and execute.

The Red Sox were forced into making some last-minute revisions to their lineup. J.D. Martinez was left off the Wild Card roster after injuring himself tripping over second base in the final game of the regular season, so Kyle Schwarber gets the nod to leadoff at DH. Every member of the batting order has put up above-average production this season, with Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts anchoring the heart of the lineup.

How to watch

Location: Fenway Park — Boston, MA

First pitch: 8:08 p.m. ET

TV broadcast: ESPN (standard), ESPN2 (Statcast)

Radio broadcast: WFAN 660/101.9 FM, WADO 1280

Online stream: WatchESPN, MLB.tv (international)

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