The Cleveland Guardians could only muster one run — coming on a long ball from Steven Kwan — in Game 1 of their American League Division Series matchup with the New York Yankees on Tuesday and, as you’d expect, it wasn’t enough. The Yankees grabbed a 1-0 series lead thanks to a 4-1 victory, behind six strong innings from Gerrit Cole and a pair of home runs from Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo. The hill for Cleveland to climb in order to buck the Yankees vs Guardians series preview is even steeper now.
But, Wednesday’s day off was much-needed for the Guardians as it allowed for them to give Shane Bieber an extra day off. He’ll toe the rubber for Cleveland in Game 2 against the crafty and difficult-to-hit Nestor Cortés Jr. His All-Star caliber pitching was a big reason why the Yankees found themselves at the top of the AL East MLB stats 2022. But, with Bieber coming off a nearly perfect Wild Card Round start against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees’ offense should have a tougher time putting up runs than it did in Game 1.
Game: Cleveland Guardians (0-1) at New York Yankees (1-0)
Location: Yankee Stadium
Streaming: Live Stream Sports
Guardians Must Get More Run Support
Cleveland had six hits on Tuesday night, two apiece from Steven Kwan and José Ramírez, and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position (to go with a pair of ground ball double plays). The Guardians are going to need a lot more on Thursday if they have a chance of evening up this series. They have to get on base in order to utilize their speed (one of their few on-paper advantages over New York) and, because they don’t have much power as a team, the Guardians need to cash in when they do have guys on 2nd and 3rd base.
The Yankees vs Guardians series preview were spot-on in Game 1 about the differences between these teams and how difficult it would be for Cleveland
It can’t all be on Kwan to set the table and Ramírez to drive him in. That may have been able to work against a team like the Rays who don’t have much offensive firepower themselves but, with a Yankees team that has loads of home run threats and has home-field edge in a power-hitter-friendly stadium, Cleveland has to give its elite pitching staff some cushion to work with. The Yankees vs Guardians series preview were spot-on in Game 1 about the differences between these teams and how difficult it would be for Cleveland to withstand another sluggish offensive night and, unless the Guardians’ bats wake up on Thursday, it could be more of the same.
Cortés Jr. Needs to Pitch 6+ Innings
The 2022 season was proof that Nestor Cortés Jr.’s breakout 2021 campaign was no fluke. This year, he was named to his first All-Star team, pitching 158 1/3 innings with a 2.44 ERA and posted 4.2 bWAR. Plus, he was nearly unhittable down the stretch of the season, giving up a total of five runs in his last six starts. He also hasn’t allowed more than 3+ runs in any start since the beginning of July, which is incredibly impressive.
The only wrinkle in his game, if there’s anything, is that he tends not to pitch too deep into games. Cortés Jr. got more than six innings’ worth of outs just twice in his last 11 starts and, with the Yankees’ bullpen as injury-riddled as it is, it would really behoove him to be efficient and work into the seventh. That doesn’t tend to be Cortés Jr.’s game but against this Guardians lineup, he could get into a groove and go past his usual innings wall. If he does that regularly for the Yankees standings 2022 in the postseason, it’ll be a major boon to their MLB World Series odds.
Long-Ball is Key For New York
Sure, a major reason why the New York Yankees led MLB in home runs this season was Aaron Judge but with guys like Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton flanking him in the lineup, the Yankees are filled with major power threats. Most teams don’t have two 30+ home run guys, let alone three. The Guardians experienced that first-hand on Tuesday as three of New York’s four runs scored via the longball.
The Yankees vs Guardians series preview are heavily predicated on the Yankees’ home run advantage, which is exacerbated by Cleveland’s pitching staff being fairly mediocre at preventing home runs. They allowed 172 dingers in the 2022 regular season, good (or bad) for eighth-most in the AL. Shane Bieber (Cleveland’s Game 2 starter) gave up 18 homers isn’t a particularly good figure for a pitcher of his caliber. The Yankees can benefit from that.
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