After a scorching start to the 2021 season, which had the Boston Red Sox leading the AL East most of July and with a 10.5-game lead on the Yankees, Boston barely squeaked into the playoffs, ultimately tying with New York at 92 wins and just edging out the Toronto Blue Jays at 91. Now a single game will determine the fates of perhaps the most famous rivals in sports.
Here are our best bets from Adam Burke, Derek Carty and Jason Weingarten on Tuesday’s AL wild-card game between the Yankees and Red Sox.
New York Yankees (-125) at Boston Red Sox (+ 105)
Burke: The biggest question in this game is which version of Gerrit Cole we are going to get. We all know how dominant Cole was before the crackdown on sticky stuff and his struggles have been well-documented since then, as he’s posted a 4.15 ERA with a 3.66 FIP since June 3. That was the first day that MLB started really paying attention to foreign substances.
The narrative about Cole isn’t fully accurate, though. He still struck out 146 batters in 110.2 innings of work and allowed three runs or fewer in 13 of his 19 starts. His bar is just a lot higher than that based on his last four seasons.
However, starters don’t work as deep in playoff games because managers have a quick hook at the first sign of trouble in the middle innings. Relievers carry much more importance in these games. Cole could go out there and be dominant, but if he isn’t, the reinforcements will arrive quicker than usual.