NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Aaron Hicks #31 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99 after hitting a three run home run against Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros during the first inning in game five of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2019 in New York City.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As predicted, the Yankees won two out of three against the Tigers in Detroit.

Now, they’ll head home to  to face the newly rebranded Cleveland Guardians. There will be no intergalactic fighting featuring a wisecracking racoon or talking tree, just good old-fashioned baseball in the Bronx.

There’s a lot of history between both teams thanks to intense playoff matchups that go back over two decades. Every regular-season game has something of an October vibe, with the Yankees taking three out of four in Cleveland this time last year. Cleveland then took two out of three in New York in September, so it’s anybody’s series.

In fact, let’s take a closer look:

Guardians (7-5) at Yankees (7-6)

Time: 7:05 p.m. ET Friday; 1:05 p.m. ET Saturday; 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday

TV: Amazon Prime on Friday; YES on Saturday and Sunday

Probable pitching matchups (Guardians pitcher listed first):

  • Friday: Eli Morgan (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (0-1, 3.72 ERA)
  • Saturday: Cal Quantrill (1-0, 3.72 ERA) vs. Nestor Cortes (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
  • Sunday: Aaron Civale (0-1, 6.14 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (0-0, 6.35 ERA)

Worth watching. In case you missed him, Guardians rookie outfielder Steven Kwan is off to a hot start. The 24-year-old has hit in three straight games after three hitless outings and is batting .382 on the year with a 1.072 OPS. Teammate Josh Naylor also leads the AL early with a .429 batting average, and Cleveland ranks third in MLB in runs scored.

Key matchup: Brace yourselves, Yankees fans, because Jose Ramirez may be in line for a great series. The Guardians’ star third baseman is a .391 career hitter against New York and already has an MLB-best 20 RBI on the season. Even worse, he’s hit .487 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees pitching has been elite thus far and now faces a true test in a Cleveland team batting .272 as a unit. That means despite Ramirez’s long history of raking in the Bronx, giving into him is not an option.

X-factor: Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both continue to struggle along with the Yankees’ offense, making Aaron Hicks the hands-down best player on this team. Gone is the switch-hitter who tried too hard to hit home runs. Hicks is now using the whole field, with his pull rate down over 10 points compared to 2021, and he’s batting a respectable .270.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has also swung a hot bat as of late, batting .437 in his last five games. The big bats may be struggling, but the Yankees are looking strong thanks to guys like Hicks and Kiner-Falefa picking up the slack.

Final thoughts and prediction: Cleveland has swung a hot bat early on, which should bode well for them in Yankee Stadium’s friendly confines. However, the Guardians’ current three-game winning streak is on the back of losing three straight. COVID has also knocked out some of Cleveland’s pitchers for the weekend and ace Shane Bieber won’t be available. Just like in Detroit, the Yankees will squeak out another series win. Yankees take two of three.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.