Fresh off their thrilling two-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL Wild Card Series, the Cleveland Guardians have moved on to the AL Division Series and will take on the New York Yankees in a best-of-five set beginning in New York on Tuesday. It’s not going to be as easy for Cleveland against the Yankees as it was against the Rays, who the Guardians held to one run over 24 innings. So, the Guardians vs Yankees series betting odds definitely favor New York but with Cleveland’s pitching and defense, Terry Francona’s bunch has a shot.
Cleveland clinched its first playoff series win since 2016 with a doozy of a win on Saturday, edging by the Rays in 15 innings on an Oscar González walk-off home run to give the Guardians a 1-0 win. No playoff game in MLB history had ever been scoreless through the first 14 innings. However, the Guardians will need to pack more of an offensive punch this week if they’re going to beat New York, led by the 62-home run man in Aaron Judge, which won 99 games this season and were at the top of the 2022 AL East standings.
Guardians Rotation Is Out of Sorts
After dominant starts from Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie on Friday and Saturday propelled Cleveland past Tampa Bay, the Guardians have to dig deeper into their rotation to account for the ALDS beginning on Tuesday.
Cal Quantrill will likely have to start Game 1 with Bieber going in Game 2 on regular rest and McKenzie pitching Game 3 with two days of extra rest. Quantrill has been really good all year and is a more-than-capable No. 3 starter but he doesn’t strike many guys out, which could be a big issue against a powerful Yankees lineup that plays its home games in a stadium perfectly suited to its strengths.
Bieber and McKenzie were close to unhittable against the Rays but, with the way this series is structured schedule-wise, Cleveland will only get a maximum of one start at regular (or extra) rest from each of them. That increases the urgency for the Guardians to win at least one of the first two games on the road, particularly with the Guardians vs Yankees series betting odds so stacked in favor of New York.
Cleveland does have other starting pitching options — Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac are possibilities — but neither of them inspires a ton of confidence, especially in such a critical late-series playoff game.
Yankees’ Bullpen is Banged-Up
Even though New York is getting Matt Carpenter back in the fold for the ALDS, the Yankees are dealing with a bunch of injuries right now that could limit how scary they are in this series — particularly on offense. Andrew Benintendi (broken hand) is still out but there is a chance he is able to return for Tuesday’s Game 1. If he isn’t able to come back, though, that means New York may have to start rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, the slumping Aaron Hicks or the light-hitting Marwin González in left field. None of those options is especially promising as the MLB stats 2022 for each aren’t very good. The Yankees standings 2022, are as right on track and heading into this series will be a challenge for the Guardians.
If he isn’t able to come back, though, that means New York may have to start rookie Oswaldo Cabrera, the slumping Aaron Hicks or the light-hitting Marwin González in left field.
But, the bullpen is where New York has some real problems. Relief aces Chad Green, Michael King and Zack Britton are out for the year while workhorse Ron Marinaccio will miss the series due to a shin injury. Closer Clay Holmes (shoulder strain) and key lefty Wandy Peralta (back tightness) are both dealing with ailments and should make the ALDS roster but they could be limited. Plus, former closer Aroldis Chapman is off the ALDS roster entirely after no-showing team-mandated workouts.
New York will have to rely heavily on guys like trade deadline pickups Lou Trivino and Scott Effross as well as Jonathan Loáisiga and might even have to turn to a closer by committee.
Cleveland Needs to Limit Judge
The 62-home run elephant in the room for this series is Aaron Judge who was baseball’s most dangerous hitter all season. How the Guardians pitch to him — and where he winds up batting in the Yankees’ order — is going to be critical. Lately, while chasing Roger Maris’ Yankees and AL home run record, Judge was leading off in Aaron Boone’s lineup but, during the playoffs, he’ll probably slot back in at 2nd or 3rd to maximize his chances of getting at-bats with someone on base.
That makes it really important for the Guardians to make sure Judge spends as much time at the plate as possible with his run production chances limited. Cleveland also might just choose to pitch around Judge when the bases are empty too, with the knowledge that the Guardians can’t afford to give up many runs thanks to their middle-of-the-pack lineup.
Cleveland held Tampa Bay to a single run during the Wild Card Series which won’t be nearly as easy a task against the Yankees. And, it would be foolish to let a guy like Judge beat you when there’s an escape hatch. He’s a major reason why New York is favored in the Guardians vs Yankees series odds and it’s with good reason.
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