The 2021 Major League Baseball season has gotten off to a flying start. From numerous no-hitters to close, exciting games constantly on national TV, it’s been the kind of start baseball needed after a pandemic-deadened season. Yet if you felt like something was missing, you wouldn’t be wrong.
This weekend saw the first series between the Red Sox and Yankees in 2021 – it’s the latest the two teams have met for the first time in a season in 25 years. While the Red Sox had won four of their last seven games leading into the series, they hadn’t won in the Bronx since 2019 after posting a 1-9 total record against their rival last year.
If last year’s disappointing results against New York aren’t enough juice, the Yankees – who entered the series hovering around .500 – openly criticized Red Sox manager Alex Cora leading up to the matchup.
“Having him in the dugout obviously makes me want to beat them,” long-time Yankee outfielder Brett Gardner told the media before the series, referencing Cora’s role in the Astros sign-stealing scandal. “We don’t like those guys; they don’t like us. It will be interesting for them to come to town.”
While Gardner later tried to walk those comments back by saying he was “joking,” the message was clearly felt. Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who has a close personal relationship with Cora, said after the third and final game of the series, “obviously Gardner said a couple words before that series started, so it kind of got us fueled a little bit more.”
How did the Red Sox pull off their first sweep in the Bronx since 2011? Here’s a game-by-game look…
The sweep is somewhat of a validation for a Red Sox team that has gotten off to a surprisingly hot start. With the wins, they’re now 13 games over .500 at 36-23, which is tied for the second-best record in the American League. Meanwhile the Yankees – who were the heavy preseason favorite to win the division – fall to 31-29. For the first time in 2021 the Red Sox now have better postseason odds than their New York counterparts, according to Fangraphs.
Alex Cora’s club is firing on all cylinders as the dog days of summer begin. They’re 7-3 in their last 10 games, with the second-best run producing offense (4.98 runs per game) in the American League. They’ve allowed the fourth-fewest runs of any AL team (4.10 per game). While the pitching – specifically the bullpen – has been a work in progress at times, they’ve shown up in big games more often than not. For instance, Red Sox relievers allowed just one earned run in 11.2 innings pitched in the weekend sweep.
A few hours south, the Yankees risk fading from contention before having a chance to improve their roster at the trade deadline. They’ve lost 10 of their last 13 games, which includes not only a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, but also the Detroit Tigers – who without those three wins would have the worst record in the American League. Offense has been a major problem. The team can’t win high-scoring games – they’re 0-18 when allowing five runs or more. They’ve scored the second-fewest runs per game (3.72) in the AL, ahead of only the Tigers.
Many fans are now calling for the team to part ways with both manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman. Boone, who has been with the club since 2018, had a particularly rough weekend. First, he told reporters “typically the better teams are going to be higher up in hitting into double plays,” when asked about his offense hitting into more twin killings than any team in baseball. Then, during the third game of the series, he allowed both third base coach Phil Nevin and bench coach Carlos Mendoza to be ejected after a controversial called third strike call in the ninth inning. Boone twice made his way onto the field, but didn’t get tossed.
After two years of uncertainty, disappointing results, and the cloud of the Mookie Betts trade hanging over the organization, the Red Sox appear to have found some stable ground. At the very least, they look like a team that should be playing competitive baseball into the fall. If that wasn’t exciting enough, they just highlighted their rival’s biggest flaws. It was a series that both launched the Red Sox into the summer and could be viewed as a catalyst for major change within the Yankees organization if they don’t turn things around soon.