new york yankees
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians will send Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber to the mound in a Saturday night battle of aces.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Yankees have won three of their last four, and it only took visiting the Cleveland Indians for it to happen.

The Bronx Bombers have averaged 5.5 runs per game over the first two games of this four-game set. A win tonight would mean three in a row. As former fictional Tribe skipper Lou Brown once said, that’s called a winning streak. They’ve happened before!

But it won’t be easy for the Yankees, nor the Indians. In fact, fans should expect something of a pitcher’s duel. Gerrit Cole (2-1, 1.82 ERA) and Shane Bieber (2-1, 2.45 ERA) will face off in what could be a pitcher’s duel for the ages, so runs could be at a premium.

Will the New York Yankees rally behind Cole and continue rolling, or will vintage Bieber hold it down and make Cleveland rock once again?

  • Time: 6:10 p.m. EDT
  • TV: YES Network, Bally Sports Great Lakes
  • Betting Line: Yankees -1.5 (-108), Indians +1.5 (-108) via FanDuel

Key Matchup: Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber

It’s easy to forget that even with last year’s abbreviated and divisional play-exclusive regular season, this is not the first time Gerrit Cole has faced Shane Bieber. Both pitchers actually squared off in Cleveland in Game 1 of the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

In this case, the Cole Train rolled from start to finish. The New York Yankees’ ace scattered six hits in seven innings of two-run ball and fanned 13 Cleveland batters in a 12-3 win.

The same could not be said for Shane Bieber. He fell behind early and allowed a whopping seven earned runs in 4.2 innings. Mind you, this was after posting a 1.89 ERA in the regular season, and the Yankees made him look almost amateurish.

Unfortunately for Bieber, history favors the Yankees. Sure, he’s 1-0 in two regular season starts against New York, but posted an 8.31 ERA in just 8.2 innings. Good as he’s been this year, he’ll need all of his pitches to be near-perfect against a Yankees lineup that might be starting to click.

On the other side of the coin, Cole owns a 2.79 ERA against Cleveland in his career. Both lineups have struggled, but with a pitching matchup like this, does it even matter?

X-Factor: The Cleveland Indians’ lineup

If you think the New York Yankees have looked rough at the plate, then you haven’t seen the Cleveland Indians. This team clearly feels the loss of star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who was traded to the New York Mets in the offseason.

Not only that, but Cleveland ranks dead last in MLB with a team batting average of .207. The Indians also rank 23rd in OPS (.664) and don’t have much star power in their lineup beyond switch-hitting third baseman Jose Ramirez. To add insult to injury, the Tribe have also led 3-0 in each of the series’ first two games, and still couldn’t win.

This is the lineup tasked with beating Gerrit Cole, probably Bieber’s main competition for the AL Cy Young. Unless Cleveland can give their ace some support early, it could be a long, long game at Progressive Field.

 

Breakout Candidate: Aaron Judge

As the New York Yankees start to get the ball rolling on offense, Aaron Judge’s power has been noticeably absent. The big right fielder has four home runs and eight RBI on the year, but is batting a meager .246.

This is because since slugging two homers against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 14, Judge’s at-bats can be described in one word: gutless. He has gone 3 for his last 22 with 11 strikeouts. That’s a .136 batting average.

I’m sorry, but where’s the power? Judge is in the lineup to do one thing: hit home runs. Now, April is almost over, and he’s too busy getting fooled with low strikes instead of mashing the ball like he should be. Where’s the Yankees’ star outfielder when they’ve needed him most?

Look, Judge’s breakout has to happen at some point. Giancarlo Stanton slugged two home runs on Friday night, so his teammate has to be due soon.

Hopefully, the soft-spoken Aaron Judge swings a big stick at the plate soon. His at-bats have gone from lifeless to frustrating to almost infuriating, so something has to change on his front soon.

 

Final Thoughts

The New York Yankees have a knack for beating the Cleveland Indians when they need to, particularly at Progressive Field. Beating Shane Bieber and making him look like pre-glow up Drew Carey is certainly possible, especially given recent history.

This time, however, fans should probably expect a closer game. Maybe not a pitcher’s duel, necessarily, but tight nonetheless. This time, New York’s lineup continues working great at-bats and grinds out a big win.

PREDICTION: YANKEES WIN 3-1