Despite a few rocky moments early in the game that made Yankee fans grab their seats and grit their teeth, the Bronx Bombers won fairly easily against the Oakland A’s in the 2018 A.L. Wild Card game to advance to the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox. With 108 wins on the season, Boston will not be easy to beat, but Yankees fans have a few facts they can take comfort in prior to the series kicking off, and they are points that can tip the series in the Yankee’s favor.
According to USA Today, they have the Red Sox as favorites, and with the season the Sox have had and home field advantage it’s hard to argue they aren’t making the rational, safe pick. What they miss, however, is looking beyond the won-loss column, because although Boston undoubtedly did better in the standings over the course of the year, New York is the hotter team, and they are healthier in key positions. Here are five facts for Yankee fans to remember as the ALCS starts.
The Yankee bullpen is a strength, while the BoSox bullpen is their Achilles heel.
The Yankees have assembled what is statistically one of the best bullpens of all-time this year, maybe the best ever per the MLB website. It’s just an empirical fact. A starter can bomb, or leave early for any reason, and the Yankee bullpen can hold it together for five innings, as they did against Oakland in the 2018 Wild Card game, or more. They have three top-tier closers, and a fourth in waiting in Dellin Betances who is setting strikeout records for relievers per The New York Post. The Red Sox, have watched Craig Kimbrel struggle in the second half, and their bullpen is a bit thin going long as starters have struggled to go deep in games in September per USA Today.
It’s mostly all about J.A. Happ and Chris Sale
Happ is a Red Sox killer. Home or on the road, he beats them, and when he doesn’t, it’s usually due to lack of run support. He is slated to face Boston two times if the series goes five games, or potentially even four games if need be. Over the past two seasons, he is a combined 3-1 with an ERA below 2.00 in each season. He is the ace in the hole the Yankees didn’t have to start the season. Boston ace Chris Sale has to dig deep and find something, as he hasn’t made it six innings in a start since July. He’s still an overall excellent pitcher, but he is struggling heading into the series.
The Yankees win at home
According to NJ Advance Media, the Yankees are 7-0 at home the last two postseasons, and 19-9 overall in the new Yankee Stadium. The franchise’s longest streak is 10 wins, which is potentially within reach this year.
The Yankees own David Price in October
Price has struggled in the postseason his entire career. In 71 and one-third innings, he has an ERA north of 5.00, and he has never beaten the Yankees in a playoff game per MassLive. While he could change all of that this year, history says it isn’t likely.
I think this game is a near must win. I defend David Price all day and night but his struggles in the playoffs everyone knows about and struggles against the Yankees and it being on national TV. I don’t think we can be down 0-1 going into his start and then the next 2 in NY after— Nick Keymont (@NKeymont_17) October 5, 2018
The Yankees’ need early leads because their defense stinks
Not everything is good news. The Yankees are playing bad defense and it shows. Manager Aaron Boone has been very open about the fact that he will need to use defensive replacements in games, as told to NJ Advance Media. Miguel Andujar and Gary Sanchez are error machines, and Gleyber Torres isn’t all that sure-handed either. For that fact, Neil Walker will likely continue to sub for Luke Voit at first late in games. If the Yankees can establish early leads, it will take the pain out of making moves to bring in lighter hitting, but more reliable, defensive players.
Oddsmakers had the series going both ways, and some have even had it as a pick yesterday. Now, most are going with Boston as the favorite, but not by overwhelming odds. The Yankees do have the kind of team that could take the series, but a lot of that will depend on J.A. Happ, Chris Sale, and which one can turn the game over to the bullpen with a lead.