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Series preview: Cleveland vs. Yankees

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Cole vs. Bieber is still on the table if weather cooperates

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

If Cleveland is just waiting for their chance to get hot, the Yankees are frozen in solid ice on Triton (Google told me that’s the coldest moon in the solar system, and I am going to trust it).

New York at least looked respectable in their two-game split against the Braves, but that hasn’t helped calm down the warnings of a falling sky. Their win in the series opener, in which old friend Gio Urshela racked two hits and a home run, was their first in five games. They were previously swept by the Rays and lost the final two of three against the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Corey Kluber had his best game as a Yankee (a sentence I hoped I would never have to type), but they still dropped the series finale Wednesday, 4-1.

It, uh, hasn’t been pretty in New York. For better or worse, Cleveland fans seem to at least accept that the team is going to be bad early on. We’ve seen it every year since Terry Francona took over, but the team has also never finished with a losing record, and José Ramírez doesn’t slump forever. People get angry, sure, but to my knowledge, there has not been a mob of Cleveland faithful throwing balls onto the field because they’re upset about the first 15 games of the season. Not this year, anyway. We get how this works and we’re just kind of resigned to it.

Yankees fans, on the other hand, have gone over a decade without a World Series and they’re getting antsy. They are facing the same dilemma that Cleveland fans face, just on a much larger monetary scale. Both teams let some big pieces walk this offseason (or shipped them to other teams) and didn’t replace them with what was perceived as an equal replacement.

On New York’s side, that was primarily their pitching staff. Masahiro Tanaka returned home to pitch for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Nippon Professional Baseball League after he couldn’t find a deal stateside, James Paxton walked and signed back with the Mariners, Jay Bruce retired a week into the season, and Brett Gardner is still there. Yankees fans have plenty of reasons to be upset at their team, especially when they carry huge contracts like Giancarlo Stanton who have not produced yet.

Stanton makes $29 million this year, or roughly 13.3% of the Yankees’ $216.7 million payroll, according to Spotrac. In terms of Cleveland’s $50.3 million payroll, that’s the equivalent of Cesar Hernandez and Oliver Perez not contributing much. Which, so far this season, seems like a fair comparison.

Like Cleveland will eventually, the Yankees are going to be good sometime this year. Probably better than Cleveland, if we’re being honest. It would just be cool if that could wait for another five days before it happens.

Weather cut Cleveland’s two-game series against the White Sox short, but it shouldn’t be an issue this time around. Saturday might get dicey, but every other day is partly cloudy and in the low-40s to upper-50s. You know, perfect baseball weather.

Team at a glance

  • Record: 6-11 (Last in AL East)
  • Runs Scored: 59
  • Run Differential: -10
  • Last 10: 3-7
  • Slash: .205/.296/.334
  • OPS: .630
  • wRC+: 83
  • ERA: 3.41
  • SIERA: 3.19
  • K-BB%: 21.8%

Projected starters

Thursday, April 22, 2021, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Domingo Germán vs. Aaron Civale
To start the series, the Yankees will send right-hander Domingo Germán, who missed all of 2020 serving an 81-game suspension for domestic violence and was allowed back in the league for some reason. He features a 12-6 curveball that he primarily pitches, followed by a 94 mph four-seamer, changeup, and a sinker without much sink. In his two starts this year, he allowed seven runs in seven innings of work against the Rays and Blue Jays.

Friday, April 23, 7:10 p.m. ET: LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. Logan Allen
Jordan Montgomery, 28, is in his fifth MLB season, and despite some encouraging peripherals, hasn’t put together a full season yet, mostly due to injuries. He started just one game in 2019 before his season ended with Tommy John Surgery, and he carried a 5.11 ERA in 10 starts in 2020. Montgomery aims to limit hard contact with four pitches that look almost identical (sinker, changeup, cutter, four-seamer) with varying speeds. He uses his sinker, change, and cutter almost equally, then will put hitters away with his low-90s four-seamer.

Montgomery has gone at least five innings with four strikeouts in each outing, and his last time out, against the Rays, he pitched six innings, striking out seven and allowing four earned runs off four hits and two home runs.

Saturday, April 24, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber
Move over Giolito vs. Bieber, this is going to be the heavyweight pitching match the stuff dreams are made of. Gerrit Cole has been his usual dominant self so far this season, with at least eight strikeouts in each of his four starts, and double-digits twice. That’s adorable, of course, compared to Bieber leading the league in strikeouts and tying the major-league record with four straight double-digit strikeout games to start a season.

After a slight dip last year, Cole’s four-seamer is back in the 97 mph range with a devastating slider/curveball combo to back it up.

Unfortunately, this is the one game that it looks like the weather could potentially impact, and that would be a damn shame.

Sunday, April 25, 1:10 p.m. ET: TBD vs. Triston McKenzie
There doesn’t seem to a consensus on who the Yankees will send out Sunday, but at least we get to watch Triston McKenzie either way.

Lineup highlights

3B, Gio Urshela - A lot of Yankees batters are off to slow starts, and Gio Urshela is no exception. Of course, for Urshela since he suddenly became a perennial slugger in New York, his “slow start” is a 114 wRC+ and .276/.311/.448 slash in 61 plate appearances. There is some legitimate cause for concern with his approach, though, as he has walked just 4.9% and struck out 21.3% — numbers not seen since he was a 67 wRC+ hitter in Cleveland. Plenty of time to recover, but something to keep an eye on as he aims for his third-straight season of quality hitting.

OF, Aaron Judge - Aaron Judge is decidedly not off to a slow start this season. With already four home runs to his name and a career-low 23.4% strikeout rate, he’s looking like a solid hitter for the fifth year in a row. On average, Judge has hit the ball harder than anyone this season, and he’s barreling the ball with the best of them. Yankees fans would love to see him get back to the 52-home run, 174 wRC+ season of 2017, and unfortunately for everyone else, it’s looking like he might be able to get there again.

Yankees roster

Poll

How many games will Cleveland win against the Yankees?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    4
    (8 votes)
  • 23%
    3
    (31 votes)
  • 51%
    2
    (67 votes)
  • 14%
    1
    (19 votes)
  • 4%
    0
    (6 votes)
131 votes total Vote Now