The New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians have a knack for finding each other in the playoffs. The 2022 MLB postseason just serves as the latest chapter of this October rivalry.
Both teams have squared off in October four times against one another, with the Yankees winning three of them. Most recently, New York swept Cleveland in a best-of-three Wild Card series at an empty Progressive Field during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Prior to that, in 2017, the Yankees recovered from a 2-0 series deficit to win three straight and advance to the ALCS.
This year, however, the circumstances are a bit different. The Yankees overcame a late-season slump to win 99 games and took the AL East by seven games. The Guardians went 46-26 after the All-Star Break to seize control of the AL Central before winning two Wild Card series pitching duels with the Tampa Bay Rays.
How do the two match up in this latest postseason drama? Let’s take a closer look.
Both the Guardians and their fans would probably prefer to forget their six regular season games against the Yankees. New York swept Cleveland over three games in the Bronx in April in what ultimately became an 11-game winning streak. Things got a little spicy during a Yankees walk-off win and fans threw beer at Cleveland’s outfielders.
Things didn’t exactly improve when the two met again in Cleveland in July and New York took two of three. The Yankees also outscored the Guardians 38-14 in all six games, certainly establishing themselves as the better team on paper.
It’s October now and anything can happen. The Guardians are largely unchanged, while the Yankees have since added Harrison Bader’s elite glove in center field. Rookie spark plug Oswaldo Cabrera can also expect to be featured heavily.
Probable pitching matchups
- GAME 1: Cal Quantrill (15-5, 3.38 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (13-8, 3.50 ERA)
- GAME 2: Shane Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA) vs. Nestor Cortes (12-4, 2.44 ERA)
- GAME 3: Luis Severino (7-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. Triston McKenzie (11-11, 2.96 ERA)
- GAME 4 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD
- GAME 5 (if necessary): TBD vs. TBD
Gleyber Torres rediscovered his opposite-field swing right when the struggling Yankees needed it most. The 25-year-old hit .322 in the last month of the regular season and added some power with six home runs and a .960 OPS in September.
On the Guardians’ side, Cleveland will hope rookie outfielder Steven Kwan continues to be a catalyst at the top of the lineup. He hit .301 in September/October and only struck out 60 times all year before going hitless in the Wild Card round. The Guardians need him at his best in the ALDS.
Considering they took on over $40 million in salary when they traded for him last spring, the Yankees would love it if Josh Donaldson showed up in the playoffs. The former MVP hit a paltry .222 with only 15 home runs and a .682 OPS this season. Even worse is Donaldson is still on a cold streak and batted only .219 in September/October.
Simply put, if the Yankees are serious about going deep into the postseason, they’ll need Donaldson to provide some protection in the middle of the order.
- Gerrit Cole pitched Game 1 of the 2020 AL Wild Card series and shut Cleveland’s bats down quickly. Cole pitched seven strong innings and struck out 13 then-Indians while allowing just two runs. The Yankees won 12-3 and Cole owns a 3.15 ERA in eight career starts vs. the Guardians.
- The same cannot be said for Guardians ace Shane Bieber, who has a 5.74 ERA in three starts against the Yankees. Bieber, the 2020 AL Cy Young winner, was also lit up for seven earned runs in 4.2 innings in the aforementioned Wild Card series.
- Speaking of Bieber, he likely won’t take the mound until Game 2 on Thursday after pitching against the Rays on Oct. 7. In fact, Guardians manager Terry Francona still hasn’t set his series rotation. Yankees skipper Aaron Boone has his set in stone.
Odds of advancing to the ALCS
Baseball-Reference: Yankees 59.9%, Guardians 18.6%
FanGraphs: Yankees 59.2%, Guardians 40.8%
The Yankees have Cleveland’s number in the playoffs and this series will just be the latest example. Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes are locked in and ready to go, as is Luis Severino. The Guardians might steal a win thanks to Triston McKenzie’s nasty offspeed pitches, likely in Game 3, but New York is still better by a wide margin. Yankees in four.
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