Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Through injuries, rain, and Aaron Boone’s bullpen management, the Yankees broke out of their funk and won a series. Even better, it was against the rival Guardians.

Three competitive games, all in which the winning team came from behind. Don’t let the standings fool you, nor New York taking the season series, 4-2. There’s still a very real chance the Yankees and Guardians could again meet in the October playoffs.

And even if both rosters are wholly different by then, Yankees-Guardians’ history alone still makes for a great series.

Hitting. This is where the narrative hasn’t really changed, even if the Yankees weren’t at full strength this series. Their best lineup is still stronger than Cleveland’s, top to bottom. But more importantly, the fact that New York’s bench kept games competitive is a testament to the gap between both teams’ bats.

For context, Cleveland did not hit a single home run in three games. The Yankees hit four, and with both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on the injured list. The Guardians might just be slumping, but their lineup is still a little too contact-oriented to keep up with an AL East team.

Pitching. Here is where the Yankees and Guardians make things interesting. Both teams’ pitching staffs bordered on great these last three games. Cleveland’s starters posted a 2.67 ERA, while New York’s posted a stellar 1.48.

The greater issue, as we’ve discussed, is the Yankees’ bullpen. Clay Holmes is the supposed closer, but blew the save Monday and gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Michael King seems to handle the pressure just fine.

Cleveland, meanwhile, can largely trust closer Emmanuel Clase and high leverage arms like James Karinchak and Trevor Stephan, even if they all had rough outings this week.

What could a 2023 playoff series look like? The narrative remains largely unchanged. The Yankees are built better for power and hard contact, and just accept strikeouts as part of the bargain. The Guardians rely entirely on the heart of their order for power. The problem is that though Jose Ramirez is great and is a Yankee killer, Josh Bell and Josh Naylor are both streaky to a fault.

The best Cleveland can hope for in the playoffs is one of two outcomes: Their pitching silences New York’s dominant lineup, or the esteemed Yankees bullpen beats itself.

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.