MLB playoffs: Yankees vs Red Sox is the perfect start


Welcome to the first edition of the Five-Tool newsletter! We’re kicking this off just in time for the 2021 MLB Playoffs, so, among other things, this issue will focus on tonight’s epic AL game between the Yankees and Red Sox at Fenway Park.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Matt Martell, and I’m the baseball editor here at Illustrated sports. I will be hosting this newsletter throughout the playoffs, with contributions from the rest of our championship-caliber baseball team. We will come back to this later. Now let’s get to the good stuff.


In today’s SI Daily Cover story, Tom Verducci presents everything you need to know ahead of the playoffs.

Tom’s nuggets are always fun and informative. I especially like his section on Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker’s five-decade relationship. These two lifers will face off in the ALDS starting Thursday when the TLR White Sox travel to Houston to start a best-of-five set against the Dusty Astros. Verducci will be at this series, so stay with us here and also check for all of her coverage there.


Let’s take a look at some stories you should read to get yourself up to speed ahead of the playoffs.

World Series Predictions by SI Staff

If you want to know which teams our experts think will win it all, or if you want to tell us why we’re wrong, you should check out our World Series pre-playoff picks.

Power rankings: Playoff pitch assessment by Will Laws and Nick Selbe

How do the 10 playoff teams rank ahead of the playoffs? Will Laws and Nick Selbe assess them based on their chances of winning the World Series and explain how and why each club can do it.

The Blue Jays Fabricate Scar Tissue By Stephanie Apstein

In her Monday column, Stephanie explains why this young and dangerous base team fell just short of the playoffs this time around, and why you should expect it to happen again.



As I wrote in our World Series Predictions Roundtable, the Yankees are the dumbest baseball team I’ve ever seen. Not because they don’t have smart players, but because their season has progressed in the most illogical way of things. Their hot and cold streaks have been well documented throughout the year by almost everyone who has written about them, as well as angry New Yorkers on Twitter and WFAN, so I won’t go into it. all the maddening moments. Instead, let’s use the way the Yankees played against the Red Sox as a microcosm of their overall performance.

New York started 0-7 against Boston this year. By the trade deadline, the Yankees had lost all but three of their 13 games to the Red Sox. Since then, New York has won six consecutive clashes between the rivals.


The key to this game will be whether Boston starter Nathan Eovaldi can take a lead in the scoring against the Yankees roster. Like Alex Fast from Pitcher List and ESPN noted on TwitterEovaldi loves to hammer the zone with his first batting pitch – 65.3% of his first pitches this season were catches. Meanwhile, the Yankees are among the most patient teams; they swing only 26.1% of the first throws. If Eovaldi gets his command early and the Yankees don’t jump over those pitches in the area, they might have a hard time scoring. Conversely, if Eovaldi struggles with his leadership, as he did the last time he faced New York – he allowed up seven runs and didn’t make it through inning three – the Red Sox could have a difficult night. We could also see the Yankees hitters change their approach and attack Eovaldi’s groove pitches early in the counts. As Verducci mentioned in his Daily Cover, playoff games are usually won by the team that hits the most homers. Look for Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to do the damage for the Yankees, and Rafael Devers, who has three homers against Gerrit Cole this season, to be Boston’s bopper.

5. THE FARM of Emma Baccellieri

What version of Gerrit Cole will the Yankees see tonight? The ace was a definite choice to start this game, but his recent fights have sown some reasonable seeds of anxiety. (He’s allowed 15 runs in 17 combined 2/3 innings in his last three starts.) A key factor has been his slider’s performance. In August, Cole’s hard-hit rate on the court was 9%, but in September it had climbed to 37%. The appearance of the slider tonight will be crucial for the offense the Red Sox can muster against one of baseball’s best pitchers.

That’s all about us today. We’ll be back to your inbox tomorrow. In the meantime, share this newsletter with your friends and family and tell them to subscribe to If you have any questions for our team, drop a note to [email protected]

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