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Yankees lose 2018 ALDS to Red Sox as dream season turns sour

Then, just like that, another pinstriped postseason imploded in devastating fashion. For the ninth consecutive year, the New York Yankees will slouch into winter, beaten and battered, defeated and dismissed. Once a yearly rite of passage, Bronx champagne is now but a mirage on the October horizon. This hometown nine just cannot get it done.

In retrospect, the 2018 New York Yankees were incredible. With flair and enthusiasm, potential and personality, they made a country fall back in love with that fabled mystique and aura. The Yankees have never seemed so comfortable in their new stadium, which came alive like the old place, throbbing to the thrill of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres.

Alas, that very stadium became the setting for utter humiliation in the playoffs, when the magic dust ran out, leaving the Yankees to face their ancient rivals alone. As ever in this bittersweet era of Yankees history, the Boston Red Sox were just better, no matter how painful that continues to be.

How the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was reignited in 2018

Under the tutelage of rookie manager Aaron Boone, the Yankees won 100 games for the first time since 2009. Great. Fantastic. Let’s go. However, the Red Sox won 108, the most they have mustered in 72 years. Also in his first season as a skipper, Alex Cora outshone Boone, receiving unabashed praise rather than relentless scrutiny.

An April brawl at Fenway Park spoke to frustrations bubbling beneath the surface. Joe Kelly and Tyler Austin were the main protagonists, but it was clear to see that neither group of players or coaches liked each other very much. For the first time in a generation, the Yankees and Red Sox were both seriously good concurrently. They also could not stand each other, creating a fascinating subplot to an intriguing campaign.  

Adhering to Brian Cashman’s new-age philosophy of controlled aggression and relentless competition, these cyborg Yankees ransacked opposing pitchers on a nightly basis. Stanton hit 38 home runs in his first season as a Yankee. Andujar, Judge, Torres, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius added 27 each. And the Yankees also got solid pitching from Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka and a rejuvenated CC Sabathia.

However, the Red Sox were even more aggressive, even more relentless and even more competitive. JD Martinez clubbed 43 homers and drove in 130 runs. Mookie Betts hit .346 with 32 dingers. Chris Sale was indomitable, an elusive ace brought to life. The Red Sox played with historic skill, zeal and intelligence. Rarely has the feud been elevated to such monumental standards of performance.

Despite becoming the first team in major league history to receive at least 20 home runs from every spot in the batting order, New York was forced to settle for a spot in the American League wildcard game. Cashman dealt for Sony Gray and Andrew McCutchen during the regular season, cramming yet more elite talent onto his roster, but Boston remained a step or two in front, winning the division by eight games.

A review of the Yankees’ 2018 postseason

The Yankees hosted Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics in the wildcard game. Judge and Stanton went yard, coming up big when it mattered most as New York prevailed, 7-2. Of course, as if by Shakespearean intervention, the Red Sox lay in waiting. For the first time since 2004, the greatest rivalry in sports spilled into the postseason.

Though they will pretend otherwise, as an institution, the New York Yankees have never recovered from that previous encounter, when they blew a 3-0 series lead in the ALCS, losing disgracefully to the Sox, who eventually won the World Series. Yankees fans have never emerged from the long shadow cast by that capitulation, and the organisation has receded into generational inferiority in the subsequent epoch.

Further Red Sox championships in 2007 and 2013 counteracted the Yankees’ triumph in 2009, stimulating contempt. Until they defeat Boston in a meaningful series, and perhaps until they equalise the recurrent failures of the past two decades – 2001, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2017 – the Yankees will never be The Yankees again. They will always be chasing their own immortality.

Accordingly, the manner in which New York fell to Boston in the 2018 American League Division Series is deeply humiliating for Yankees fans around the world. Yes, the season was a joyous ride punctuated by the emergence of new stars and fresh dreams, but the Yankees lost the final game of October against Boston. Such heartbreak is irreparable.

Once, we were so full of hope. Entering the series, Yankees fans relished the opportunity to topple their nemesis en route to a deep postseason run. When they emerged from the first two games in Fenway Park with a split, that excitement turned to belief. Then the roof fell in. Then the Yankees suffered their most one-sided defeat in postseason history. Then the bubble burst.

Before an expectant crowd of 49,657 in the Bronx, Boston won Game 3 by a monumental score of 16-1. Never before had the Yankees incurred such a traumatic blow in a single playoff game. Never before had they been so thoroughly embarrassed in their own house. There was little recourse to analysis; the Yankees were shellacked – end of story.

Game 4 felt like a foregone conclusion, even if the Bombers did produce a ninth inning rally that ultimately fell short. The Red Sox won, 4-3, advancing to the American League Championship Series while sending the Yankees home for winter. Shell-shocked and traumatised, Boone’s men slumped off the field, battered and bruised by an alternate ending that was never meant to arrive.

What next for the New York Yankees?

For eleven months, this was a dream renaissance for the New York Yankees. From early December, when Boone and Stanton arrived in the same week, through to mid-October, when they went toe to toe with Boston for a shot at the pennant, there was a sense of destiny about this team.

However, in a cruel and sickening twist, the Red Sox proved again that they were just a little bit better. First, the dream turned sour, and then it devolved into a nightmare. Now, it is scattered across the floor, smashed into a thousand pieces, gone forever.

What began as a bid for rekindled pride became just another garbled reminder of progress still to be made. Another season came, another season died, and the quest for Yankee hegemony rolled on.

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