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Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

American League Wild Card Preview

The New York Yankees are coming to Fenway to play the Red Sox in the American League wild card game on Tuesday, October 5. 

Leading up to the wild card game, there was a lot of intrigue around the MLB about who was going to win the race. It all came down to the day of the regular season. With four teams in contention for the two spots in the wild card game, every game counted. 

Coming into September, the Red Sox were in the second wild card spot after a red hot start to the season. They played really well in September, clinging to the wild card spot, and eventually overtook the Yankees for the first spot. When it seemed like they had things locked up, the Yankees came into Boston and swept the Red Sox in late September. They followed that up by losing a series to the last-place Orioles. Their fate was decided by their last series against the Nationals. The Red Sox swept the series to lock up home-field advantage in the wild card game.

The Yankees had a much different experience in September. They started by losing seven of their first nine games to drop out of the wild card. Then, they went on a seven-game win streak at the end of the month to bring themselves back into the second spot. Coming into the last game of the season, the Yankees had to win and they were in. However, they were playing the Tampa Bay Rays, who hold the best record in the American League. After dropping the first two games, the Yankees certainly played their regular-season finale like it was the most important game of the season. After being held scoreless for the first eight innings, they finally got the victory thanks to a walk-off single from Aaron Judge. 

The Mariners had the opportunity to further complicate things if they won their last game against the Angels. With a win, the Mariners would face the Yankees in a tiebreaker game Tuesday. Yet, the Mariners lost 7-3 Sunday, giving the Yankees the opportunity to face off against the Red Sox for a berth in the divisional round against Tampa Bay.

This wild card game is another chapter in one of the greatest rivalries in sports. These two teams have played each other more than 2,000 times since the beginning of the 20th century. As two of the most successful franchises in baseball, they have combined for 36 World Series Championships. Both of these teams are looking to add another to their respective trophy cases.

As the most important game of the season for both of these teams, you can expect them to bring their A-game. Gerrit Cole is starting for the Yankees. He is widely considered one of the best pitchers in the league this year, despite the controversy surrounding his foreign substance usage. He has amassed a 3.23 ERA and a 16-8 record over the course of the season. However, he has struggled against the Red Sox this season. He went 2-2 and allowed three or more runs in all but one of the games. Nathan Eovaldi is starting for the Red Sox. He has pitched well this year, going 11-9 with an ERA of 3.75. That being said, he went 2-3 against the Yankees.

The Yankees are coming into the game as the favorites, largely due to Cole’s stellar pitching. They also have a solid lineup that is capable of going off on any given night. The Yankees are led by Aaron Judge, who hit 39 home runs this year. He also holds a team-high in batting average and RBIs on the season. The Yankees rely on their pitching more than the Red Sox, who have a much better offense. Led by Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts on offense, the Red Sox bat .260 as a team and average more than 5 runs a game. If Devers, Bogaerts, and Co. can get the bats swinging, Gerrit Cole is going to have his work cut out for him. 

X-factors for the game

Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi, Pitcher- If Eovaldi is able to keep the Yankees at bay early, the Red Sox can build a lead before they start digging into their bullpen, which has been less than stellar this year. As long as Eovaldi can keep the ball out of the stands, the Red Sox should be able to win. 

Yankees: Aaron Judge, Right Field- As the leader of the Yankees offense, it is crucial for Judge to have a big game. If he is able to start an early rally for the Yankees, they should win the game. With pitchers as good as theirs, an early lead is usually going to lead to a victory. 

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Fan of Minnesota sports, so I'm used to disappointment. Was once mistaken for Ryan Gosling (but I'm more talented). Probably the only Yung Gravy fan you'll meet.