Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Sure, the brawl in April injected some needed sizzle into Yankees-Red Sox. As rage coursed through Fenway, we got a new set of rivalry villains, a new chapter for the battle log, and a jacked-up anticipation for the next feud installment, which begins Tuesday night in the Bronx.
Real temperature, not manufactured buildup, is back.
But let's hope there are no testosterone-fueled mound charges this time, and no punches thrown. That may sound odd, since the rivalry certainly improved last month.
But there's too much at risk now for either club to chance losing a star to injury in a brainless, macho scrum because someone took exception to a hard slide or an errant pitch, purposeful or otherwise. It's good for the rivalry if the teams are less-than-chummy, but that doesn't mean every series has to be a free-for-all.
Both teams are so good this year that we could be staring at a grand AL East race -- one that could boil down to the last weekend of the season when the combatants finish in Boston. Its tendrils could extend into the major awards, too. Who's your MVP: Aaron Judge or Mookie Betts? You like Cy Severino or Cy Sale?
This series is the first time in nearly 16 years that the Red Sox (25-9) and Yanks (24-10) have faced each other owning the two best records in baseball, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The last time it happened was June 2, 2002 when Boston was 36-16 and the Yanks were 37-19. Like now, the rivalry was percolating back then, with epic playoff showdowns looming over the next few years.
The Red Sox authored the best start in franchise history this year, getting to 17-2 on April 20. The Yankees were 7.5 games out of first at that point, sitting in third place behind Boston and Toronto. Some Yankee fans grumbled about new manager Aaron Boone.
Now, the Yanks have moved to only one game back. They're rolling, having won 15-of-16 games to match their best 16-game stretch since going 15-1 in both 1961 and 1980. Along the way, the Yanks swept the Angels in Anaheim, beat the Astros three-of-four in Houston, and swept Cleveland at the Stadium.
Over their recent run, the Yanks have outscored opponents, 98-37, averaging 6.13 runs.
They seem unkillable, too. The Yankees have already won four games this season when trailing after eight innings. They had only five victories like that last year, and that's a club that went to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.
Both teams bring high-powered offenses into the series. The Yanks lead MLB in runs (197) and, all together now, Giancarlo Stanton isn't even excelling. Boston is second in runs with 192.
The clubs also rank among baseball's best pitching staffs, too. New York is sixth in ERA (3.43), second in opponent average (.217), and second in opponent OPS (.628). Boston is seventh in ERA (3.45), sixth in opponent average (.230), and fourth in opponent OPS (.664).
And the series is littered with high-profile stars, from Judge, Stanton and Didi Gregorius to Betts, J.D. Martinez and David Price. Stud youngsters, such as Gleyber Torres and Andrew Benintendi, dot each roster, bringing hope that the rivalry will stay potent for years.
With all this talent, the potential division race is too tantalizing to threaten it with more brawling. Imagine one team dooming the other to the hazard of a one-and-done wildcard game? Or knocking the other out of October entirely? How about another autumn showdown with a trip to the World Series at stake?
A summer's worth of thrills would be much more fun than another Wrestlemania moment on the infield grass.
Keep the rivalry edge, but keep everyone injury-proof from melees. There's too much great baseball to be played.