Yankees vs. Red Sox on Opening Day

When the baseball season ends, the next one seems so far away. When spring training begins, we’re so starved for the game that we follow it intently, talking about exhibition game statistics as if they were the true measure of a player. Then, finally, when Opening Day rolls around … you almost can’t believe it’s here already. That’s how I feel, anyway. All this anticipation and lead-up to the start of a new season, and now it’s upon us. Other than the all-star break (and barring sweeps or short series in the League Championship Series or other playoff rounds), we shouldn’t have a day without baseball until the night before the World Series starts. Six and a half months. Wonderful.

To start everything, MLB or ESPN (or both) went for the top acts. It’s like having an all-star concert, yet opening with Bruce Springsteen and U2 instead of closing with them. Yankees-Red Sox. Or, if you prefer, Red Sox-Yankees. I kind of do prefer the latter. Considering that this rivalry has reached or returned to its peak in recent years, becoming more fervent in the last three or four summers as opposed to the early 90s or something, I wondered when these two rivals last met with 0-0 records and a five- (or six- or eight-) way tie atop the division (or league) standings. It’s been 13 years since the Yankees won on Opening Day 1992 by a 4-3 score.

They’ve played a total of 28 times, these two storied franchises, to start the season. I trolled through the game-by-game results on Retrosheet just to get the basic backstory, the games and their scores. The Yankees have won 17 of the 28 games, the Red Sox 10, with one tie coming in 1910 (though the Yanks won when they played the following day).

But scanning the results for the Opening Day matchups wasn’t enough. As I sat down to write this post out, I had to go through them again, looking at the standings, to see how the teams fared each season when they kicked things off against one another. Below are those results: Year, whether the Yankees won or lost the game, the score (Yankees runs first), and season record with final position in standings in parentheses (again Yankees first). The New Yorkers get top billing only because they’ve won more of these matchups. The starred years of 1917 and 1919 featured Babe Ruth on the Red Sox and, of course, ’19 was the year the Sox last defended a World Championship.

Yankees vs. Red Sox on Opening Day
Forgive me for not learning how to format a chart yet. For years 1960 and earlier, an eighth-place finish is a last-place finish in the American League. In 1992, a seventh-place finish is last place in the AL East.

1992 W 4-3 / 76-86 (5); 73-89 (7)
1985 L 2-9 / 97-64 (2); 81-81 (5)
1973 L 5-15 / 79-76 (4); 85-70 (2)
1971 L 1-3 / 82-80 (4); 85-77 (3)
1970 L 3-4 / 93-69 (2); 87-75 (3)
1964 L 3-4 / 99-63 (1); 72-90 (8)
1960 W 8-4 / 97-57 (1); 65-89 (7)
1959 W 3-2 / 79-75 (1); 75-79 (5)
1958 W 3-0 / 92-62 (1); 79-75 (3)
1951 W 5-0 / 98-56 (1); 87-67 (3)
1950 W 15-10 / 98-56 (1); 94-60 (3)
1945 W 8-4 / 81-71 (4); 71-83 (7)
1944 W 3-0 / 83-71 (3); 77-77 (4)
1939 W 2-0 / 106-45 (1); 89-62 (2)
1938 L 4-8 / 99-53 (1); 88-61 (2)
1935 L 0-1 / 89-60 (2); 78-75 (4)
1933 W 4-3 / 91-59 (2); 63-86 (7)
1931 W 6-3 / 94-59 (2); 62-90 (6)
1929 W 7-3 / 88-66 (2); 58-96 (8)
1926 W 12-11 / 91-63 (1); 46-107 (8)
1924 W 2-1 / 89-63 (2); 67-87 (7)
1923 W 4-1 / 98-54 (1); 61-91 (8)
1919 L 0-10* / 80-59 (3); 66-71 (6)
1917 L 3-10* / 71-82 (6); 90-62 (2)
1912 L 3-5 / 50-102 (8); 105-47 (1)
1910 T 4-4 / 88-63 (2); 81-72 (4)
1906 W 2-1 / 90-61 (2); 49-105 (8)
1904 W 8-2 / 92-59 (2); 95-59 (1)

So in the 28 years in which these two teams have started it all against one another, the Yankees have finished higher in the standings than the Red Sox 22 times while also winning 10 pennants. Boston’s won two pennants while finishing higher six times. Yet only one of the six meetings in the expansion era (since 1961) has led to a pennant-winning Yankee club, and that was in ’64.

In all years, the Yankees’ average record is 88-65 (.575) and their average place in the standings is 2.39. For Boston, it’s 76-78 (.494) and 4.79.

New York has 25 winning seasons on the list to Boston’s 13 (plus two at .500). The Yankees have 15 90-win seasons (one of which was a 100-win campaign) along with one 90-loss season, which was also a 100-loss season. The Sox won 90 or more four times (topping 100 once) and lost 90 six times (twice surpassing a hundred).

Now, in years when the Yankees win, they’ve gone on to have a 91-63 (.591) average record with an average standing of 1.88. When the Sox have lost the opener to the Yanks, they’ve gone 71-82 (.464), on average, to finish 5.53. But when Boston takes the first game, both teams finish with an average record of 84-71 (.542); however, Boston’s standing is 3.60 while New York’s is an ever-so-slightly better 3.30.

Finally, perhaps all we need to look at in these past results is the streaks. There are no stretches where one team has won two out of three with the other team winning the middle game of that three-game stretch. In other words, if that trend continues tomorrow night, the hometown Yanks will get the first W.

So my prediction, then:

YANKEES 8, Red Sox 3. W: Johnson, L: Wells. HR: Matsui.

Predictions on all Opening Day games to come, along with division standings guesses.

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