The Yankees are on a terrific run. After winning nine in a row, they have now won 15 of their last 16 games, sweeping the Cleveland Indians and taking three out of four from the Houston Astros. They now have a 98.4% chance at making the playoffs, the highest in baseball, and a 13.5% chance of winning the World Series, second only to the Astros. As much as they are favored right now, the Yankees are still behind the Red Sox in the standings. If they want to move into first place, they will have to find a way to beat Boston.
This may sound obvious, but it hasn’t proven to be as easy as we might all have hoped. The Yankees have had a recurring issue against the Red Sox over the last few seasons. Now that the two teams are ready to meet for another three-game series, it has never been a better time for the Yankees to finally make a statement over their rivals.
As good, or as bad, as the Yankees have been, they are having trouble against the Red Sox. Dating back to the 2016 season, New York is only 20-21 against them. Obviously better teams offer more of a challenge, but while the Yankees have winning records against some of the tougher clubs out there, the only team that they have a worse record against (given a significant sample size) is the Toronto Blue Jays at 21-25.
What separates the Red Sox from the Blue Jays, though, is that if the Yankees don’t beat Boston, no one will. Toronto has a losing record against every other team in the AL East since 2016, so if New York can’t beat them, someone else in the division will. The Red Sox, meanwhile, only have a losing record to the Royals and Tigers in that same time period. I mean, how many times have we seen the Rays and Orioles fail to hold a lead against them late in the game?
There’s a certain logic here, of course, since the Red Sox had back-to-back 93-win seasons in the last two years, but 2018 is supposed to be different. After an impressive performance last season, the Yankees are expected to be one of the best teams in the league, and they are. Yet the Red Sox are still ahead of them in the division race. After losing two of three to them in April, the pressure is on to finally get the better of their rivals, especially with three games at Yankee Stadium. Thankfully, this is the best position they have been in for quite some time.
Heading into the series, the Yankees are clearly the hotter team, and the pitching matchups favor them as well. Drew Pomeranz and David Price have been awful this year, with ERAs north of 5.00. The Yankees have already given Price a beating in 2018, scoring four runs off him in a game where he only managed to pitch one inning. Rick Porcello is clearly the better pitcher over CC Sabathia, but if the Yankees can win the first two games, a series victory will propel them into first place.
The good news is that a poor 2016 has a lot to do with this trend. They went 8-11 against them that year, followed by an 11-8 run in 2017. This isn’t like how the Minnesota Twins are 17-48 against the Yankees since 2010. For the most part, New York and Boston hover around .500 against each other. However, in a season as important as this, it’s time for the Yankees to separate themselves, especially when there are six games against them in the last two weeks of the season. We don’t need this to come down to the wire, so beating up on them now is important.