Yankees-Red Sox: What’s at stake as AL East rivals meet for three-game series in the Bronx?

Yankees-Red Sox: What's at stake as AL East rivals meet for three-game series in the Bronx?

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will play a doubleheader on Tuesday as part of a two-day, three-game series at Yankee Stadium. Though the series will be brief in terms of days, it has massive playoff ramifications for both clubs.

The two sides will enter the first game separated by just two games in the American League East standings. The Red Sox hold the advantage, as well as the American League’s top wild card spot. (The Oakland Athletics, the current second wild card team, are a half game back.) The stakes are clear then: the Red Sox can create additional distance between themselves and the team best positioned to nudge them out of the playoff bracket; the Yankees, conversely, can overtake the Red Sox with a sweep, or at least gain ground with a series win.

For additional perspective on what’s on the line, let’s break down each team’s situation.

Red Sox

The Red Sox have been scuffling as of late, coming into Tuesday with a 14-15 record in the second half that includes a 6-8 mark in August. Boston does have a couple of factors working in its favor: it has the lead, for one, and it has the easiest remaining schedule in the American League, according to Baseball-Reference’s calculations. The Red Sox will play the Yankees just three more times after Wednesday, and while they have a couple of series remaining against the Tampa Bay Rays, they also have a combined 15 games coming against the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals. 

Projections via Sportsline



Red Sox sweep series


Red Sox win series 2-1


Yankees win series 2-1


Yankees sweep series


According to SportsLine’s projections, the Red Sox presently have a 72 percent chance at making the postseason. Their odds will improve to 89 percent with a sweep and to 80 percent with a series win. Even if the Red Sox are swept, SportsLine has their odds “bottoming out” at 54.5 percent. That wouldn’t be an ideal outcome, of course, but the Red Sox would still have better than a coin flip’s chance at making the postseason. 

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For their part, the Yankees are attempting to overcome an inconsistent and, at times, maddening first half that saw them go 46-43. The Yankees have started the second half on a better foot, winning 20 of their 29 games, including 11 of 15 in August. New York has yet to lose a series this month.

SportsLine’s projections confirm that the next three games are vital to the Yankees’ playoff chances. At present, New York’s odds of reaching October are 40.2 percent. A series win would improve those chances to 44.5 percent, while a sweep would push them to 57.5 percent. Should the worst-case scenario unfold for the Yankees — that is, a Red Sox sweep — New York’s odds would decline to 22.9 percent.

Projections via Sportsline



Red Sox sweep series


Red Sox win series 2-1


Yankees win series 2-1


Yankees sweep series


The Yankees do have a tougher road ahead than their rivals. Not only will the Yankees play the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics as part of a nine-game road trip that begins next Monday, but they’ll finish the season with nine consecutive games against the Red Sox, Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays. 

It’s factually inaccurate and a touch overdramatic to label this Red Sox series a “must-win” for the Yankees, but it is an important one if they want to make good on their promise.