TODAY'S PAPER
Scattered Clouds 47° Good Afternoon
Scattered Clouds 47° Good Afternoon
SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

A Yankees-Red Sox ALCS matchup would revive The Rivalry

Starlin Castro of the Yankees reacts after his sixth-inning

Starlin Castro of the Yankees reacts after his sixth-inning three-run double against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 3, 2017 Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

CC Sabathia’s anti-bunting crusade from the other day may have been shocking, but thank goodness for it. Thank goodness for a shred of life in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.

Or as it used to be known, The Rivalry.

The days when Yankees and Red Sox would end up brawling on the field appear to be over. No more Carlton Fisk vs. Thurman Munson (1973) or Fisk vs. Lou Piniella (1976) or Pedro Martinez vs. Don Zimmer (2003) or Jason Varitek vs. Alex Rodriguez (2004).

The teams finished their regular-season series with the Yankees’ 9-2 win Sunday night at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees won the head-to-head series, 11-8, but the Red Sox still hold a 3 1⁄2-game lead in the AL East after losing three of four this weekend.

As things stand, it’s unlikely that the Yankees and Red Sox could meet again before the ALCS. Let’s hope for baseball’s sake that that’s what happens.

You may not have noticed because you’re busy drafting your fantasy football teams, but MLB isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with its playoff races.

Sure, there’s the eight-team scramble for the two AL wild-card spots (the Yankees hold the top spot) and the Brewers are only a half-game behind the Rockies for the second NL wild-card berth.

But the only division races that are even somewhat close are the AL East and the NL Central, where the Brewers and Cardinals are chasing the Cubs.

If baseball’s going to get some buzz, it may have to wait until October. And what would be more buzzworthy than a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS, the first since the epic series of 2003 and 2004?

Aaron Boone was in the building Sunday night to call the game on ESPN. He’ll never again have to pay for a drink in the Bronx after his series-winning home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS sent the Yankees to the World Series. And Red Sox rooters will never forget the comeback from down 0-3 the following season as Boston finally reversed The Curse.

Today’s rivalry is tepid compared to those of the 1970s and 2000s. You’d think it might spark up a bit after Sabathia said it was “weak” for Eduardo Nuñez to bunt against him in Thursday’s opener. Sabathia, who has a bum knee, took offense and displayed his displeasure by shouting and gesturing at the Red Sox dugout.

Sabathia had the means to retaliate if he felt it necessary: He could have thrown some chin music near a Boston batter, which is the way pitchers of yore used to keep hitters from bunting on them or leaning over the plate. That’s a lost art, however, and other than some incredulous responses from the Red Sox, the matter died on the vine.

It’s just about baseball now, and that’s OK if it’s good baseball. Sunday night’s game featured a delicious pitching matchup with Chris Sale vs. Luis Severino. The Yankees hit three solo home runs off the AL Cy Young Award candidate and knocked out Sale after 4 1⁄3 innings.

Severino was dominant, and the Yankees put up six runs in the sixth with the help of an overturned call via instant replay on Gary Sanchez’s RBI infield single. Starlin Castro followed with a three-run double before Aaron Judge hit a two-run homer.

The evening began with managers Joe Girardi and John Farrell teaming up on the field to announce a partnership between the clubs to raise money for Hurricane Harvey relief by auctioning off some memorabilia. Nice.

After that, Girardi and Farrell returned to their respective dugouts to match wits for the final time in 2017 — unless they meet again in October, for a renewal of a rivalry worthy of a capital R. Let’s hope for it. And hope the first batter against Sabathia lays down a bunt.

New York Sports