BOSTON, Massachusetts — 162 games across a span of six months, yet it all comes down to a single game tonight.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will play in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park. The loser goes home and the winner advances to the American League Divisional Round (ALDS) to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game series.
This is exactly the type of drama Major League Baseball was envisioning when it switched to this format. In 2012, a second wild card team was added in both the American League and the National League, so the two wild cards in each league begin the postseason with a one-game playoff.
This will be the first playoff game the Sox have played in since they won the 2018 World Series. Boston beat New York 3-1 in the ALDS that year.
On Tuesday morning, the Red Sox released their roster for the game, and there are two notable omissions: J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale.
Martinez continues to recover from a left ankle sprain he suffered during the final game of the regular season. The injury came when he tripped over second base while jogging out to right field.
It was unknown whether Sale would be included in the roster for the game after he threw 62 pitches on Sunday. There had been some discussion about whether Red Sox Manager Alex Cora would keep the team's ace available in the bullpen, but that's not the case.
Nathan Eovaldi will start for the Red Sox and Gerrit Cole will take the mound for the Yankees. If that matchup seems scary for Sox fans, there's a reason. The two righties faced off on Sept. 24 and Eovaldi only lasted 2.2 innings in an 8-3 Yankees win. Eovaldi's excited for this moment, though, and has had success against New York in the past, most notably his seven-inning, one-run performance against the Yanks in the 2018 ALDS.
Lauren Campbell from the Locked On Red Sox podcast thinks the Red Sox can get to Cole, the Yankees' ace, who has an earned run average around 5.00 against the Red Sox this season.
Full interview with Lauren Campbell, host of the Locked On Red Sox podcast
While Sox fans can relish in four championships since 2000 ('04, '07, '13, '18) compared to the Yankees' two ('00, '09), that won't lessen the pain of a loss to New York tonight. But, as NESN's Tom Caron told NEWS CENTER Maine, a Red Sox win could also make their season feel like an overall success, World Series or not.
"If the Red Sox can beat the Yankees tonight and eliminate them from the playoffs, I think no matter what happens we will all universally agree this has been a great year," Caron said.
First pitch is set for 8:09 p.m. on ESPN.
Full interview with NESN's Tom Caron.