The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will face off in the first round of the 2018 American League Division Series. This meeting of two juggernauts will undoubtedly have some fireworks. And it will leave the winner feeling primed and ready to head to the World Series. But here are the three most important assets in the Yankees battle against Boston.
1. J.A. Happ
The reason that the Yankees traded for J.A. Happ in the first place was this very assignment, to face the Boston Red Sox. Happ has plenty of postseason experience and has a resumé that speaks for itself. But it’s what he’s done against Boston during his AL East tenure that was the catalyst for his acquisition by the Bronx Bombers. The Red Sox have been a very strong team this season, that goes without much argument.
However, they have flaws as any team does. None of their starters have won a postseason game as a starting pitcher. Now personally I take starting pitcher wins with a grain of salt, but it speaks to potentially something more.
2. The Bullpen
Which leads me to my next point, the Yankees bullpen. As we saw in the AL Wildcard game, the Yankee relievers stepped up big and the only blemish was a two-run home run given up by Zach Britton to the Majors home runs leader Khris Davis. Two runs were all the damage allowed by the Yankees bullpen.
Now, not every game will run so smoothly, especially not against the games top offense. But the strength and depth the Yanks possess in the pen are better than the rickety bridge the Red Sox have to Craig Kimbrel.
Any game is liable to get away from one team or another and as we saw with the A’s in the Wild Card game, whenever multiple relievers are being used not everyone will be at the top of their game. But if the bullpen can maintain the lockdown mentality they displayed against Oakland, they can shut down a potent lineup in Beantown.
3. Aaron Boone
Aaron Boone is a first-year manager, as is the man that will be standing in the dugout across from him Alex Cora. Both men managed teams that won at least 100 games, the first time in history for two rookie managers. But if you’ve watched this team throughout the season, you know that not every decision Booney has made has been gold. Watching Aaron Boone in the dugout during the Wildcard game you could see there was a game plan. And he stuck to it, and the dices rolled the Yankees way.
It was as if every choice Aaron made was spot on. The decision to bring in Dellin Betances with runners on base and no outs. Once a move that would have surely backfired looked like the smartest decision as no one scored. Then later on removing Miguel Andújar in the sixth for defensive purposes.
Something that wouldn’t have been expected until at least the eighth, to keep Andújar’s bat in the game, paid off immediately. When Adeiny Hechavarria would make a leaping snag that most players get nowhere near that ball.
Aaron Boone will have every choice magnified, second-guessed, and overanalyzed. But if he can continue to make the right decisions. If the game plan can continue to be deployed to flawless perfection, the Yankees can make a deep postseason run. And a man questioned because they were ten games behind Boston for the AL East Division crown can make the Bronx only remember “NUMBER 28.”