New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Matchup Preview (10/5/21): Betting Odds, Starting Lineups, Daily Fantasy Picks

After the wildest final weekend in recent MLB memory, the Yankees and Red Sox barely held on to earn the American League’s two Wildcard spots.

While the rivals finished with identical records, the Red Sox barely won the season series, 10-9, and will host at Fenway as a result. July 25th turned out to be a much more important game than previously thought, as the Yankees won the last five times these two met.

Questionably, the Red Sox chose to pitch Chris Sale in Sunday’s season finale, and they will have Nathan Eovaldi start the Wildcard game. Meanwhile, the Yankees will obviously start Gerrit Cole.

With Cole on the mound, the Yankees have opened as short favorites. But is New York worth laying the juice on the road? Or does Boston provide more value?

Let’s dig into this highly-anticipated American League Wildcard game.

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Betting Odds

Most Wildcard games end up as rock fights between two elite pitchers going toe-to-toe. In the last sixteen Wildcard games, nine of them have gone under.

But that’s not really the case here. While he’s been the de-facto ace for most of the 2021 season, Eovaldi is not Boston’s best arm. And while Cole has faced some bad regression luck, some stats suggest he’s just pitched worse:

chart 36

These two starters are slightly overrated in the market, and the total is a tad too low as a result. The market consensus line is 8.5, but I’ve seen this total projected as high as 9.4

Plus, we can’t forget how impressive these two offenses are. Both lineups are stacked with big hitters, as New York and Boston represent two of the top four hardest-hitting teams in MLB:

Screen Shot 2021 10 05 at 9.10.01 AM

Add in Eovaldi and the Boston bullpen’s high variance, and the fact that Cole has a 4.91 ERA in four starts against Boston this year, and there’s a lot of ways for the over to hit.

I’ll happily play the over 8.5 at -120 or better.

Boston Red Sox Starting Lineup

  1. Kyle Schwarber (L)
  2. Kiké Hernandez (R)
  3. Rafael Devers (L)
  4. Xander Bogaerts (R)
  5. Alex Verdugo (L)
  6. Hunter Renfroe (R)
  7. Kevin Plawecki (R)
  8. Bobby Dalbec (R)
  9. Christian Arroyo (R)

Boston Red Sox Analysis

Boston’s success this season was built on their offense. Even without Mookie Betts, the Red Sox smashed the ball. Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez led the Boston attack, but they received unexpected contributions from other parts of the lineup.

Hunter Renfroe posted the highest OBP (.315) and OPS (.816) of his career this season, smacking 31 homers in the process. Plus, Kyle Schwarber has been red-hot since joining the Red Sox (.957 OPS since the trade from Washington).

However, Bobby Dalbec has been the most underappreciated Boston bat. The 25-year-old has flipped the script on his season, posting a .957 OPS in the second half compared to a .657 in the first.

Since August 1, only five players have had a higher OPS than Dalbec (1.053). That list includes Bryce Harper, Yasmani Grandal, Juan Soto, Brandon Belt, and Kyle Tucker – all of whom could receive MVP votes. Even more impressively, Dalbec hit his 25th home run Friday against Washington, becoming the first Red Sox rookie to hit 25 homers in a season since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997.

Dalbec simply became more disciplined. While his batted ball statistics have always been elite (92.4 mph average exit velocity, 91st percentile among qualified hitters), Dalbec’s struck out almost 35% of the time this season. However, while he struck out 95 times in 72 first-half games, he dropped that number to 61 in 61 second-half games. All while nearly doubling his walk rate:

chart 34

Meanwhile, it’s been an absolute rollercoaster ride for the team’s pitching staff. Specifically, in the bullpen, where Boston’s relief ERA skyrocketed from 3.57 in the first half to 4.49 in the second half.

There are some very competent relievers on the Red Sox, including Garrett Whitlock, Adam Ottavino, and Matt Barnes. But everyone has been far too inconsistent. Adding Chris Sale into the rotation allowed Garrett Richards to be moved to the bullpen, where he’s performed better and given that unit more depth. But Boston’s relief staff is still a liability.

Starting Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi (RHP)

When Nasty Nate is pitching well, he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Eovaldi’s a workhorse that’s pitched 182 innings while posting one of the highest WARs in the American League (5.6). He has a mighty, high-90s fastball which he backs up with two effective off-speed pitches, and he has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios in the league (20.9 K-BB%) as a result.

However, he’s prone to blowup innings. Over the last two months, Eovaldi has posted a 3.84 ERA and a 3.06 FIP in 11 starts. But he’s allowed seven earned twice in that stretch. Once pitching four shutout against Toronto before allowing all seven in the fifth inning, and then pitching three innings of three-run ball against the Yankees before allowing four in the fourth.

Speaking of the Yankees. Before that seven-run explosion, Eovaldi had shut down his former club. He made five starts vs. New York between June and August and allowed just seven earned runs in total. He’s posted a 3.06 xFIP over all six starts.

New York Yankees Starting Lineup

  1. Gleyber Torres (R)
  2. Anthony Rizzo (L)
  3. Aaron Judge (R)
  4. Giancarlo Stanton (R)
  5. Joey Gallo (R)
  6. Gio Urshela (R)
  7. Brett Gardner (L)
  8. Gary Sanchez (R)
  9. Rougned Odor (L)

New York Yankees Analysis

There are two Yankees that are the engine of the team: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

When those two go, the whole offense goes. And over the last two weeks, Judge and Stanton are red-hot.

Since August 20, Stanton has posted a 175 wRC+ while Judge has posted a 191 wRC+. Both have an OPS above 1.000 during the stretch, and they’ve combined for nine home runs and 30 RBIs in the 12 games.

Predictably, the Yankees are 9-3 in those contests, which included a sweep of their rival Red Sox.

Additionally, the bullpen has returned to its elite status. New York’s relievers slipped in July, posting a 5.42 ERA during the month, but followed it up by posting a 2.40 ERA in August. And over the past two weeks, the Yankees are third in MLB in reliever FIP (2.70) and first in reliever xFIP (2.98).

The bullpen is led by the three-headed monster of Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, and Jonathan Loaisiga, who have combined for 210 2/3 innings and 7.2 WAR. However, we’ve seen several new arms make appearances in the second half — including rookie Luis Gil and trade deadline-piece Wandy Peralta — who have only bolstered the bullpen’s depth.

The rotation is questionable at best, and it’s right to question if that unit can hang in a seven-game series with the Rays, Astros, or White Sox. However, that doesn’t matter for this one-game series, because they have a Cy Young candidate as their ace:

Starting Pitcher: Gerrit Cole (RHP)

However, Cole’s Cy Young candidacy was built on his first half. Because while he had an unreal beginning to 2021, his numbers have lagged considerably in the second half:

Gerrit ColeFirst HalfSecond Half
IP Per Start6 1/35 2.3

Cole’s also been brutal in September, where he’s posted a 5.72 ERA over his five starts this month.

However, I’d chalk up a large part of his poor performance to bad luck and normal regression. Cole had a .272 BABIP in the first half, but that number jumped to .358 in the second half — and every other stat jumped along with it.

Meanwhile, his first half and second half xFIP are nearly identical (2.90, 2.99). Plus, his average exit velocity has remained relatively steady:

chart 35

All-in-all, Cole’s been pitching just fine, but balls have been finding the gaps more often. You could chalk that up to bad luck or a very poor Yankee defense.

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox Daily Fantasy Corner

I’d take a good look at Enrique Hernandez in this spot.

Not only does Kike have a .845 OPS at Fenway this season, but he’s also 5-for-11 lifetime vs. Cole with two doubles. More impressive, however, is that he’s never struck out against Cole, who has one of the highest strikeout rates in the league. In fact, Hernandez has whiffed just 11% of the time while drawing three walks in those 14 PAs.

All-in-all, Hernandez has posted a .547 xwOBA against his opponent, which is the highest of any batter vs. any pitcher in the Wildcard game.

Judge would be another excellent DFS pick. He’s been on fire recently, and he has had success hitting against Eovaldi in the past. While Judge is only 9-for-23 lifetime against Eovaldi, three of those hits went for extra bases and he compiled a .369 xBA and a .770 xSLG on his batted balls.

Finally, I believe Eovaldi has some strikeout upside. He’s struck out at least six batters in nine of his last 10 games and has averaged 7.1 Ks per start during that stretch:

Screen Shot 2021 10 04 at 5.32.25 PM

Meanwhile, the Yankees are strikeout happy. The Bronx Bombers have posted MLB’s seventh-highest strikeout rate over the past 30 days (24.2%) and the sixth highest on the season (24.5%).

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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