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The best rivalry in baseball adds another chapter on Sunday night, as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees will wrap their weekend series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. These two squads have faced off more than 2,250 times in the regular season, and they’ve also combined for some of the most memorable playoff moments in history.
History will be on the minds of all baseball fans in attendance as Aaron Judge looks to hit his 61st homer of the year. He’s already broken the record for homers by a right-handed hitter in the American League, and one more will tie him with Roger Maris.
As for how each team is faring this season, the Yankees have already secured a spot in the postseason, while the Red Sox will be on the outside looking in. The Yankees are also extremely likely to win the division, with their magic number to win the AL East currently sitting at four games.
Let’s dive into five of my favorite wagers on DraftKings Sportsbook for Sunday Night Baseball.
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox
The Yankees will have Nestor Cortes on the mound in this matchup, and he’s been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season. The All-Star left-hander has turned into an ace-caliber pitcher, posting a 2.67 ERA and a 2.81 xERA across 145 innings. He’s been even better over the second half of the year, with opposing batters managing just a .221 wOBA since the All-Star break.
However, I’m not sure how deep Cortes will actually pitch into this contest. He’s already shattered his previous career high in terms of innings pitched, and it makes sense for the Yankees to try to preserve him for the postseason. He’s lasted five innings or fewer in each of his past three starts, despite allowing two earned runs or fewer in all of them. Overall, he’s thrown 65 pitches or less in two of those starts, topping out at 87 pitches in his last outing.
Cortes will also have his hands full with the Red Sox lineup. They’ve been solid against left-handers all year, and they rank seventh in wRC+ in that split over the past 30 days.
Once Cortes departs, the Red Sox will get to face a Yankees’ bullpen that is not as strong as in years past. They're tied for third in bullpen ERA, but they lack the seemingly endless collection of dominant relievers that they’ve had over the past few years.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will turn to top prospect Brayan Bello, who has started to put things together at the MLB level. After a rough start to his career, he’s pitched to a 3.66 ERA since the All-Star break, including a 1.69 ERA over 21 1/3 September innings.
Add it all up, and the Red Sox provide nice value at +140.
This is an interesting spot for Cortes. On one hand, I already laid out the case for the under. He’s probably not going to pitch more than five innings in this contest, and it’s going to be tough for him to rack up six strikeouts in such a short period of time. Despite his dominance this season, Cortes is not really a strikeout pitcher. He’s averaged just 9.06 strikeouts per nine innings this season, and that figure has dropped to 8.6 over the second half. Overall, he’s racked up five strikeouts or fewer in four of his past five outings.
On the other hand, the Red Sox are an excellent matchup from a strikeout perspective. They have the ninth-highest strikeout rate against southpaws this season (23.8%), and they’ve jumped to fourth over the past 30 days. In two previous starts vs. the Red Sox, Cortes has racked up 11 strikeouts in just 8 2/3 innings.
There’s definitely a shot that Cortes gets to six strikeouts in limited work, but the odds push me in favor of the under. It’s available at +125, which seems like a very strong price.
The Yankees were able to get on the board in the first inning on Saturday, which is something they’ve done quite often this season. They’ve scored in the first inning in 33.77% of their contests, which is the third-highest mark in the league. The Red Sox aren’t quite as prolific in that department, but they still rank in the top half of the league in first-inning run percentage.
Like most pitchers, Cortes is also typically at his most vulnerable in the first inning. His ERA sits at 3.46 in the opening frame, but his ERA is under three in virtually every other inning this season. Cortes has also fared far worse against right-handers than left-handers, and he’ll have tough matchups against Tommy Pham, Xander Bogaerts and possibly J.D. Martinez in the first inning.
If the Red Sox can’t get on the board in the first, the Yankees should hopefully be able to pick up the slack. Bello has an ERA of 8.00 in the first inning, and the top of the Yankees’ lineup is potent. It starts with Judge, but guys like Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres and Giancarlo Stanton are dangerous in their own right.
Cortes is basically unhittable for left-handed batters. He’s limited them to an absurd .181 wOBA this season, which is easily the best mark among starting pitchers.
However, righties have had a bit more success. They’ve racked up 97 hits in 459 at-bats, good for a .211 average. That’s not a good mark, but it’s not impossible for righties to get a hit off him.
That’s good news for Bogaerts, who is an absolute killer against southpaws. He’s racked up a ridiculous .389 average in that split this season, resulting in a 194 wRC+. Only Paul Goldschmidt has a better average in that split this season, and he’s likely going to win the NL MVP.
Bogaerts has been handled well by Cortes throughout his career -- he’s merely 1-for-11 with six strikeouts -- but I like his chances of getting on the board on Sunday.
Is +175 a good price for Judge to hit a homer? Not really. That said, it’s not that bad either.
His current odds translate to an implied probability of 36.36%, and Judge has homered 60 times in 147 games this season. That works out to one homer for every 2.45 games, or approximately 40.8%. That’s not exactly how homers work -- he’ll have some games with multiple homers and others with none -- but it’s a pretty fair estimate of Judge’s homer probabilities on a given day.
Still, this bet isn’t about the numbers. It’s about wanting to be a part of history. The whole reason I’m going to be tuning into this game is to see if Judge can hit No. 61, so why not get in on the action? If he does go yard, you’ll be able to tell your grandkids about how you won a couple bucks while watching history.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
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