One of sports greatest rivalries is renewed and now takes on a whole new meaning following the defeat of the Oakland A’s at the hands of the New York Yankees. With a 7-2 victory, New York faces the Boston Red Sox for only the fourth time in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians look to continue their road back to the World Series, however, they have to fend off the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. For baseball fans, to quote an old MLB slogan, “I live for this.”
Cleveland Indians vs Houston Astros
After winning their first ever World Series last year, the Astros have played like a team on a mission. With the second best record in baseball, they’re lead by one of the best starting rotations in the game. Add to the fact they have some of the most exciting young players such as second baseman Jose Altuve, third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielder George Springer, and you have a recipe for a dynasty.
However, if there’s one person that knows how to derail a potential dynasty, it’s Cleveland Indians’ manager, Terry Francona. Having stopped one of the greatest Yankee’ teams ever assembled in 2004 on his way to the Red Sox miracle season and then again with a red hot Colorado Rockies team in 2007, Francona is the one man who stunts an opposing teams roll.
Players To Watch
Indians; Third baseman, Josh Donaldson: This team is very good, and while there’s a lot of quality pieces, probably one of the bigger question marks is, can Donaldson return to his MVP caliber form? Considering how dangerous this Houston pitching staff is, Cleveland is going to need all the fire power they can get.
Astros; Left fielder, Marwin Gonzalez: Last year, Gonzalez struggled in the post season, hitting less than .200. He followed up his post season struggles with lowered numbers in the regular season. The postseason is known for making heroes and sometimes those heroes come from bad years. Could this be Gonzalez’s year?
Prediction: Astros defeat Indians in four games.
It’s hard to ignore Cleveland’s offense and their success in pitching this season. However, Houston just looks tough to beat. Houston and Cleveland have similar stats individually, Houston as a collective has been more impressive with more strikeouts and a lower earned run average. Cleveland’s bats may have been hotter but when you get to this point in the season, pitching trumps offense.
New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox
Bucky Dent’s home run in 1978 to send the Yankees to the playoffs, Aaron Boone’s home run in 2003 to send the Yankees to the World Series and the Red Sox completing the greatest comeback in sports history, down three games to none against one of the most lethal Yankees teams ever assembled; this is the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
The Yankees reloaded lineup lived up to the power hype by setting the record for most home runs hit by a team in the regular season, however living by the long ball has also hurt them. In Beantown, the Red Sox set their own record by winning the most games in their franchise’s history. Lead by two Most Valuable Player candidates (outfielder Mookie Betts and designated hitter J.D. Martinez), Boston’s line up has been one of the most complete. Yet, with pitching struggles as of late, business could pick up.
Players To Watch
Yankees; Designated Hitter, Giancarlo Stanton: It’s not often you call a former MVP and one of baseball’s best hitters a player to watch. Given that this is his first real taste of postseason action, nerves may set in. With pressure being cranked up to 11, this will be Stanton’s first true test of how great he is. This isn’t Miami anymore kid.
Red Sox; Bullpen: There’s not one singular person to pick here, it’s Boston’s bullpen in general to watch. While the starting rotation is highly enjoyable to watch and Craig Kimbrel is one of the top closers in baseball, it’s that middle group that could make or break Boston. If they can even out and save their rotation, Boston has a decent chance to control this series.
Prediction: Boston Red Sox defeat New York Yankees in five games
This series can really go either way, as this rivalry has shown. The Yankees pitching, while not bad can be pretty suspect at times. It’s not hard to expect some struggles in Boston against the likes of J.A. Happy though. Boston as a whole has been slightly better in all around hitting.
The Yankees live and die by the long ball and if they can get it off and running, they’ll be in good shape. That’s easier said than done at times. However, the real deciding factor is fielding. Boston defensively was a top 10 team when it came to defense while New York was 19th. If the Yankees can clean up their act in the field, things could look up but all it takes are lapses in crucial moments to seal a team’s fate. Again, this series could go either way but this will be the series to watch!