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ALDS Preview: Guardians vs. Yankees

Can the young Guardians keep the magic rolling against a juggernaut Yankees team?

Wild Card Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Guardians - Game Two Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Things have lined up quite nicely for the Guardians, all things considered. Sure, they have to face a team that finished in the top three of every major category with a lineup that features the guy that hit 62 home runs (not an MLB record) in the regular season. But at least they get their best pitchers in the first three games.

The volatility of the postseason means that Games 4 and 5 could be just about anyone on the mound, but right now they remain undecided. What we do know is that the Guardians have opted to keep everyone on regular rest. Cal Quantrill — who did not pitch in the Wild Card — will start Game 1, Shane Bieber will get Game 2, and Triston McKenzie will take the mound in a pivotal Game 3.

The ALDS follows the 2-2-1 format for home schedules, meaning Games 3 and 4 will be in Cleveland and the rest, including a potential take-all Game 5, will be in New York.

Here’s the schedule as we know it so far (all AL Division Series games are being broadcasted on TBS):

Game 1: @ New York, 10/11, 7:37 p.m.
Game 2: @ New York, 10/13, 7:37 p.m.
Game 3: @ Cleveland, 10/15, 7:37 p.m.
Game 4: @ Cleveland, 10/16, 7:07 p.m.
Game 5: @ New York, 10/17, 7:37 p.m.

If a Game 4 is necessary, the Guardians will most likely turn to Aaron Civale, who was left off the Wild Card roster but will likely be added by the deadline tomorrow morning. Civale missed parts of the season with various injuries but returned on Sept. 20 to face the White Sox. He allowed eight earned runs and struck out 23 batters over his last four starts combined.

Civale faced the Yankees twice this season, and it was a trainwreck both times — but, to be fair, they both came when the Yankees offense looked unbeatable in the first half of the season and everyone except Aaron Judge has looked much more mortal since the All-Star Break. He allowed six runs in three innings on April 24, and didn’t fare much better on July 2 when he allowed four over six innings.

There will be no easy matchups for the Guardians offense because, while Yankee bats get all the attention, they feature a top-flight pitching staff that is also well-rested without a Wild Card weekend.

Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole is still firing that near-100 mph fastball to go with four other pitches that come at any time. He’s relied on that four-seam more often this year than in previous seasons, and he completely ditched the sinker that he used to lean on with the Pirates so many years ago. His wipeout slider induces swings and misses 44.2% of the time, but basically any pitch in his arsenal can be used as a putaway pitch.

If the Guardians are going to have any success against Cole, they’ll have to get back to making contact, especially on pitches out of the zone. After leading the league in contact on outside pitches during the regular season, they were frequently caught powering windmills against the Rays in the Wild Card. It’s a big part of the reason they only scored three runs in 24 innings and it’s probably not going to get it done against the Yankees, especially Cole.

Things won’t get easier from there, as they will face a Cy Young contender in Nestor Cortes in Game 2, and a quietly great Luis Severino in Game 3. Nasty Nestor (owner of one of the last few great nicknames in baseball) dominated the Guardians over his two starts this year. He pitched a combined 12.1 innings and allowed just three earned runs with 14 strikeouts.

Cortes is essentially the polar opposite of Cole, in that his fastball is lucky to his 93 mph and he relies mostly on just three pitches — that four-seamer, a cutter, and a slider. Despite the low velocity by today’s standards, he keeps it in the zone and away from bats enough that it’s one of the deadliest fastballs in the league. Only Justin Verlander’s four-seamer had a better run value (-24) than Cortes’ (-22) in the regular season. Unfortunately, the Guardians are one of the worst teams in the league against fastballs, so let’s hope for a pitcher’s duel between him and Bieber.

Knocking out — or outlasting — starting pitchers may be the key for the Guardians in this series. The Yankees and Guardians bullpens finished 3rd and 5th in ERA in the regular season, respectively, but half the guys that made New York’s bullpen tick in the regular season are injured. Michael King, Ron Marinaccio, and Wandy Peralta all pitched at least 40 innings with an ERA under 2.80, but are on the injured list. Peralta is expected to be activated and added to the ALDS roster, but he hasn’t pitched in almost a month. King and Marinaccio, along with Zach Brittan, Chad Green, and Stephen Ridings, will all miss at least the ALDS.

The Guardians have had the benefit of being healthy for most of the season, but they will be without submarine-style reliever Nick Sandlin for the remainder of the postseason. It was announced earlier today that he suffered an upper back/shoulder strain and will need to be replaced on the roster.

Matt Carpenter, who hasn’t played since Aug. 9 due to a fractured foot, is eligible to return to the Yankees for the ALDS. He was in the midst of a mini-renaissance season, posting the best offensive numbers of his career through 154 plate appearances (.305/.412/.727, 217 wRC+) before he fouled a ball off his foot and landed on the 60-day injured list. His pull-heavy swing from the left side of the plate plays particularly well at Yankee Stadium, so he could be coming off the bench at any point in a crucial situation if the Yankees add him to their postseason roster.

Of course, the main threat to Guardians pitchers will be Aaron Judge, owner of the American League and Yankee records for most home runs in a season (Barry Bonds has the MLB record, just a heads up). Judge put the team on his back and carried them through the second half of the season while most everyone else crumbled. Since the All-Star Break, Judge has played out of his mind with a 251 wRC+ and 29 home runs, but he’s one of only five Yankees batters with an above-average bat in that span. He’s one of three to hit double-digit home runs in that span (Anthony Rizzo and Gleybar Torres each had 10).

This series will be a chance for the Guardians to flip the narrative about their budding postseason rivalry with the Yankees. Since going up 2-0 in the 2017 ALDS, the Guards have lost five straight postseason games to the Yankees. In other words, two of their last three postseason runs were ended by the Yankees. A good series here goes a long way toward wiping that out.

In short, the Yankees went from an unbeatable Death Star in the first half of 2022 to, well, still a Death Star — but one with its exhaust port showing. Which one will show up in the ALDS, and can the Guardians capitalize? We’ll find out tomorrow night.

Team at a glance (regular season)

  • Record: 99-63 (2nd in AL)
  • Runs Scored: 807 (1st in AL)
  • Run Differential: +240 (1st in AL)
  • Slash: .241/.325/.426
  • wOBA: .327 (2nd in AL)
  • wRC+: 115 (2nd in AL)
  • ERA: 3.30 (2nd in AL)
  • SIERA: 3.55 (2nd in AL)
  • K/BB%: 17.1% (2nd in AL)

Projected starters

Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 11, 7:37 p.m. ET: RHP Gerrit Cole vs. RHP Cal Quantrill
Game 2: Thursday, Oct 13, 7:37 p.m. ET: RHP Nestor Cortes vs. RHP Shane Bieber
Game 3, Saturday, Oct. 15, 7:37 p.m. ET: RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Game 4, Sunday, Oct. 16, 7:07 p.m. ET: TBD vs. TBD
Game 5, Monday, Oct. 17, 7:37 p.m. ET: TBD vs. TBD



How many games will the Guardians win against the Yankees?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    (263 votes)
  • 10%
    (47 votes)
  • 21%
    (92 votes)
  • 7%
    (34 votes)
436 votes total Vote Now