By Matt Citak
There have been some amazing rivalries throughout the history of sports.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics. Michigan vs. Ohio State. Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali.
While those clashes have produced some wildly entertaining moments over the years, it’s tough to compare any of them to that of the Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees.
The bad blood between these two teams began almost 100 years ago, all the way back in 1920 when the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth from the Red Sox for cash.
However the modern part of the rivalry truly began in the late 1970s when the Red Sox and Yankees underwent one of the most exciting pennant races of all time.
In late July of the 1978 season, Boston had built up a 14-game lead over its division rival. George Steinbrenner then fired manager Billy Martin, which seemed to light a fire under his team.
The Yankees wound up taking a 3.5-game lead over the Red Sox by September, but Boston was able to come back and tie New York on the last day of the season.
What came next was a classic, one-game playoff, with the winner taking the division crown and entering the postseason while the loser watched from home.
The Yankees emerged victorious with a 5-4 victory at Fenway Park, thus ending what is still considered to be one of the greatest pennant races in the history of the sport.
40 years later, the Yankees and Red Sox seem destined for another epic, late-season clash, as the race for the 2018 AL East crown is shaping up to be yet another amazing chapter in baseball’s greatest rivalry.
Entering play on July 3, New York finds itself just one game behind Boston for the division lead, with the season series resting at 5-4 in favor of the Yankees.
It makes sense, as both of these teams are built around incredibly talented cores that carry several similarities.
While the Red Sox have J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts anchoring their lineup, the Yankees have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton providing the power in the Bronx. Both teams enter play on July 3 ranked top three in all of baseball in runs scored, while coming in at no. 1 (NY) and no. 2 (BOS) in home runs.
Boston has Chris Sale at the top of their rotation, but New York can counter with an ace of their own in Luis Severino. Ironically, the teams are currently tied with a 3.82 ERA for its starting pitchers this season.
Both teams rank in the top 5 in MLB in bullpen ERA, where each club has one of the game’s top closers (Craig Kimbrel in Boston, Aroldis Chapman in New York).
Even their Achillies’ heels are similar- David Price is 2-6 with an 8.43 ERA in nine starts against the Yankees since joining Boston, while Sonny Gray is 1-6 with a 6.98 ERA in eight career starts against the Red Sox.
What’s unfortunate for both of these powerhouses is that only one of them can win the division. Boston and New York currently have the two-best records in all of Major League Baseball, and both are on pace to win over 100 games this season. Yet come October, one will be forced to participate in the American League Wild Card Game, where anything can happen.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s appreciate the excitement this rivalry is sure to create over the next three months.
If the first half of the season showed us anything, it’s that there is no lack of bad blood between these two storied franchises.
It didn’t take long for the 2018 edition of this famous rivalry to pop off. Within two weeks of Opening Day, the benches cleared and punches were thrown as the Red Sox and Yankees brawled at Fenway.
Considering how close this division race has been all season, one can’t help but look ahead to the final weekend of the season. The Yankees close out the year in Boston from September 28-30 in a series that will most likely determine the American League East Champions.
As if this rivalry needed any extra tension…
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.