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Red Sox vs. Yankees Game 1 lineup: Will Chris Sale find his fastball?

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If his velocity is up, the Yankees are in trouble. If not...

MLB: Game Two-Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
This is why he’s here.
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Sox, winners of the American League East for the third straight year and bearers of the best regular-season record in both the league and in their history, will square off against the Yankees for the fourth time in playoff history tonight at Fenway Park (7:32 p.m., TBS).

About Game 1: Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA) is likely to be a Cy Young Award bridesmaid yet again following a nagging second-half injury, but he’s hopefully at full strength tonight as he looks for his ‘consolation’ prize — a World Series championship. His fastball velocity has been down recently from a 95.6 MPH in May to 90.2 MPH in his last time out, against the Orioles, and while Sale is confident he can win with whatever stuff he has, 90’s not going to cut it tonight, most likely. The Yankees had 32 more homers than any other team in baseball this year and don’t seem likely to let up in the postseason.

Sale will be matched by trade deadline acquisition and fellow lefty J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 ERA), who’s been wonderful in the Bronx. The former Blue Jay has pitched extremely well against Boston this year, pitching 22 innings over 4 starts with a 1.99 ERA. That’s tremendously good! If the Sox can get to Happ, it’ll set a nice tone with Masahiro Tanaka, against whom the Sox hit very well, coming up. If not, the edge will slide toward the Yankees in a short series.

The lineup contains no surprises, with Eduardo Núñez getting the start at third base likely because of his defense and at least theoretical advantage against the lefty, which Nunie’s splits don’t reflect, but expect Rafael Devers to pinch-hit at the earliest possible chance. Sandy León catches Sale because he always does, but Blake Swihart is assuredly the quick bat off the bench once/if Sale comes out.

On the Yankees side, there’s little to report that we’re not already familiar with. They hit home runs in bulk. The Sox would be best to avoid that.

Forecast: A fittingly nippy 55 degrees and clear at game time. Dress warmly.

Today’s listening: Jake, Matt and I discuss the impending clash on this week’s Red Seat podcast.

A good tweet:

LINEUPS:

ALDS Game 1 vs. Yankees

Lineup spot Yankees Red Sox
Lineup spot Yankees Red Sox
1 Andrew McCutchen, LF Mookie Betts, RF
2 Aaron Judge, RF Andrew Benintendi, LF
3 Aaron Hicks, CF Steve Pearce, 1B
4 Giancarlo Stanton, DH J.D. Martinez, DH
5 Luke Voit, 1B Xander Bogaerts, SS
6 Didi Gregorius, SS Eduardo Núñez, 3B
7 Miguel Andújar, 3B Ian Kinsler, 2B
8 Gary Sánchez, C Sandy León, C
9 Gleyber Torres, 2B Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
SP J.A. Happ, LHP Chris Sale, LHP