Category: Postseason Page 2 of 16

ALDS Game 4: I don’t know, maybe just win?

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Do the Yankees have a [win] in their bones? We’ll find out tonight. Game 4 of the Division Series at Petco Park is the Yankees’ first elimination game of 2020. Personally, I would like to see a Game 5. Who’s with me?

We’ve seen a lot of managin’ in this series, particularly from the Yankees’ side of things. But tonight, Aaron Boone and Kevin Cash will be front and center moreso than the previous three games. The Rays are going with an opener/bullpen game whereas the Yankees will undoubtedly have a short leash on Jordan Montgomery with the team’s back against the wall. So, get ready to see a lot of Cash and Boone walking out to the mound. Here are the lineups the skippers set for this one:

Tampa Bay Rays (2-1)

  1. Yandy Díaz, DH
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  5. Manuel Margot, RF
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

RHP Ryan Thompson

New York Yankees (1-2)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Luke Voit, 1B
  6. Brett Gardner, LF
  7. Gleyber Torres, SS
  8. Gio Urshela, 3B
  9. Kyle Higashioka, C

LHP Jordan Montgomery

News & Notes

7:10 p.m. eastern start for this one. TBS, WFAN, and WADO have the call. Enjoy hopefully not the last game of the season, all.

ALDS Game 3: No more messing around

It’s a brand new day and it’s time for the Yankees to play like the Yankees, not like the Rays. The strategy we saw deployed in last night’s loss may work for Tampa Bay, but the Yankees aren’t built for that kind of game plan. It’s frustrating to be at 1-1 in the series now, but like Randy wrote this morning, I also feel pretty good about the Yankees outlook the rest of this series.

Tonight, Masahiro Tanaka gets a chance to be his usual playoff self after not looking so sharp against Cleveland in the Wild Card series. In fairness, the bungled handling of the weather likely screwed him over a bit. That shouldn’t be an issue in San Diego for this one. The Rays counter with Charlie Morton, who was a shell of his old self this season.

Final thing: the Yankees are the home team for this game and the next one. Gonna be weird to see them wearing pinstripes in San Diego, but nothing is not weird this year. Anyway, here are the lineups:

Tampa Bay Rays (1-1)

  1. Austin Meadows, RF
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  5. Yoshi Tsutsugo, DH
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  9. Michael Pérez, C

RHP Charlie Morton

New York Yankees (1-1)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Luke Voit, 1B
  5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  6. Gio Urshela, 3B
  7. Gleyber Torres, SS
  8. Brett Gardner, LF
  9. Kyle Higashioka, C

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

News & Notes

  • In case you didn’t notice, Kyle Higashioka is starting over Gary Sánchez. Gary had a big homer against Cleveland last series, but otherwise has been really bad basically all year. I can’t help but wonder if last night’s 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts and a passed ball had a say in tonight’s decision.
  • Brett Gardner is in the lineup over Clint Frazier. I don’t think this is a surprise. Lefties have big numbers against Morton and so does Gardner, who has a lifetime .364 batting average and 3 homers against Tampa Bay’s starter.
  • Jordan Montgomery is starting tomorrow’s game, though Deivi García will be “in the mix”. OK. I really don’t get not using Deivi as a starter when he’s one of your best three (or four, if you really want to argue Happ) starters.
  • No commitment to Gerrit Cole for a potential Game 5, but come on. You know it will be him if that comes to fruition.

I’m very glad that this game starts an hour earlier than last night’s. We all could use an extra hour of sleep. This starts at 7:10 p.m. eastern on TBS, WFAN, and WADO. Enjoy the game everyone.

ALDS Game 2: So you centered a gameplan around JA Happ

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There’s a lot to complain about in this one, folks. The Yankees fell 7-5 in spite of Giancarlo Stanton’s heroics. The decision to use Deivi García as an opener for JA Happ backfired, CB Bucknor had himself a night, and the Yankees offense just fell short against Tampa Bay’s bullpen. This best-of-five series is now level at one a piece. Let’s get to the takeaways.

If I were the Yankees, I’d simply would have waited as long as possible to use JA Happ in this series. I know, I know. Happ had a resurgence during the regular season. But there’s no way I want to see him get the ball before Masahiro Tanaka in a playoff series with both guys fully rested. It’s overthinking things. Yes, hindsight is 20/20 and all, but give me Tanaka over Happ as the bulk guy every time.

ALDS Game 2: Back ’em into a corner

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Game 1 was great, but there’s more work to do. The Yankees can grab a commanding 2-0 series lead in this best-of-five with a win over Tampa Bay this evening.

Tonight is the first playoff game that neither Gerrit Cole nor Masahiro Tanaka start for the Yankees. Instead, rookie Deivi García gets the ball in a move sure to be scrutinized or praised heavily depending on the outcome. I have little doubt that García is up to the task given his demeanor throughout the regular season. Clearly, the Yankees feel similarly. Don’t forget to read Bobby’s thoughts on this decision (and other Yankees matters), by the way.

On the other side, the Yankees are up against yet another stellar starting pitcher in Tyler Glasnow. He’s got a terrific curveball, so we’ll see how he deploys it against an offense that has handled breaking balls with ease of late.

Here are tonight’s lineups:

New York Yankees (1-0)

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Luke Voit, 1B
  5. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  6. Gio Urshela, 3B
  7. Gleyber Torres, SS
  8. Clint Frazier, LF
  9. Gary Sánchez, C

RHP Deivi García

Tampa Bay Rays (0-1)

  1. Austin Meadows, DH
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  5. Manuel Margot, RF
  6. Joey Wendle, 3B
  7. Willy Adames, SS
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  9. Mike Zunino, C

RHP Tyler Glasnow

News & Notes

First pitch is scheduled for 8:07 p.m. eastern. TBS carries the telecast and WFAN and WADO have the radio broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Wild Card Round Preview: Yankees head to Cleveland

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The playoffs are here and games are to be played all day, but we have to wait just until 7 eastern for the Yankees series against Cleveland to begin. It’s a brief three game set that could be over as soon as tomorrow. There are no off days during series this postseason and all of this round’s games will be played at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Hopefully, the Yankees can celebrate there just like they did back in 2017. The winner of this series will take on either the Rays or Blue Jays in the ALDS.

Their Story

Cleveland’s a strange team. A good one, but but also extremely flawed. They finished 35-25, second place in the AL Central, almost entirely on the back of the team’s elite pitching staff. Save for MVP candidate José Ramírez, the offense was almost nonexistent all season long. I guess you don’t need to score all that much when you allow just 209 runs (3.5 per game) all season, the lowest in MLB.

Just how bad is this offense? It was nearly Cleveland’s downfall just a couple of weeks ago. Through September 7th, the team was tied for first place in the division with the White Sox. By September 16th, they were six games out of first (behind Chicago) and holding on to one of the two Wild Card spots. Cleveland’s lineup tallied just 24 runs during an 8 game losing streak from the 8th to the 16th. That plummet wasn’t Ramírez’s fault, that’s for sure: the third baseman hit .348/.400/.652 during the skid. Everyone else let the team down. You can see the losing streak flat-line below:

As you can also see, Cleveland surged to finish the season in second place. They made up those six games by going 9-2 to end the year to tie Chicago, though Cleveland held the tiebreaker to claim second place. That run also included a four game sweep of the ChiSox. None other than Ramírez was right in the middle of that hot finish: he hit .436/.522/1.103 (316 wRC+) with 6 homers in the last 11 games to make his case for MVP. The rest of that team during that stretch? .203/.291/.314.

So yeah, you can talk about how great Cleveland’s pitching is all you want, but if it wasn’t for Ramírez, they are a Wild Card team at best right now. He couldn’t even get much help from Francisco Lindor (100 wRC+) or Carlos Santana (95 wRC+) this season.

All that isn’t to say that Ramírez is the savior for this team. It definitely needed a bunch of pitching stars to be a winning club. Shane Bieber, tonight’s starter, is probably going to win the Cy Young Award thanks to a 1.63 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. A couple of other starters had big years too: Carlos Carrasco (2.91 ERA) and Zach Plesac (2.28 ERA). Noticeably missing? Mike Clevinger, who had a 2.90 ERA in 53 starts from 2018 through 2019. Cleveland was so deep in pitching that they could afford to trade him away at the deadline. They were also able to afford sidelining Clevinger and Plesac earlier in August as a result of breaking COVID-19 protocols. Again, this team seems to develop pitching out of thin air (hence the Yankees hiring away Matt Blake).

By the way, it’s not just a formidable rotation either. The bullpen is nasty, too. As a group, Cleveland’s relievers ranked 4th in WPA, 5th in ERA, 1st in FIP, and had the 6th-fewest meltdowns. The team’s relief ace is James Karinchak, who struck out 53 batters in 27 innings this season (48.6 percent strikeout rate). Closer Brad Hand went 16-for-16 in save opportunities this year and fanned 33.7 percent of batters himself. And those aren’t even the only two guys with big strikeout numbers. Phil Maton (33.3 percent), Triston McKenzie (33.1 percent), and Nick Wittgren (28.6 percent) figure to play a big role in relief too.

So, back to the team’s recent run of play to wrap this section up. Cleveland’s (sort of) riding high into this series with the Yankees. I say sort of because the team will need more than its high caliber pitchers and Ramírez in this series. Keep in mind that this team’s 9-2 finish included 7 games against the Tigers and Pirates. Beating up on bad teams is important, but it’s certainly a far cry from even a struggling Yankees club.

One last thing: Terry Francona will not manage Cleveland this series. He managed just 14 games this year due to blood clot and gastrointestinal issues. Sandy Alomar Jr. will take his place. Best wishes to Francona and his family.

Projected Lineup

  1. Francisco Lindor, SS (.258/.335/.415, 100 wRC+)
  2. Cesar Hernandez, 2B (.283/.355/.408, 108 wRC+)
  3. José Ramírez, 3B (.292/.386/.607, 163 wRC+)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (.199/.349/.350, 95 wRC+)
  5. Franmil Reyes, DH (.275/.344/.450, 112 wRC+)
  6. Tyler Naquin, RF (.218/.248/.383, 62 wRC+)
  7. Roberto Pérez, C (.165/.264/.216, 35 wRC+)
  8. Josh Naylor, LF (.247/.291/.330, 68 wRC+)
  9. Delino DeShields, CF (.252/.310/.318, 71 wRC+)

Bench:

  • Austin Hedges, C (.145/.231/.290, 43 wRC+)
  • Sandy León, C (.136/.296/.242, 56 wRC+)
  • Mike Freeman, INF/OF (.237/.302/.316, 67 wRC+)
  • Jordan Luplow, OF (.192/.304/.359, 80 wRC+)
  • Oscar Mercado, OF (.128/.174/.174, -12 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Game One, Tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT:

Gerrit Cole (vs. Cleveland)

Tonight’s start is a big reason why the Yankees signed Cole to a $324 million deal. It’s pretty dang nice to go into Game One of any series with a top-5 pitcher in the sport, something the club hasn’t been able to do since the CC Sabathia days. Cole comes into this ballgame on fire: his last four starts, all with Kyle Higashioka behind the plate, were terrific. He pitched to a 1.00 ERA in 27 innings and allowed just one homer. Can’t wait to see him bring it tonight.

Cole’s opponent is all too familiar with the 30 year-old righty, and not for good reasons. Cleveland batters own a .089/.159/.128 batting line against Cole, many of whom were also on the team when Cole dominated them in the 2018 ALDS.

Shane Bieber (vs. Yankees)

I already sung Bieber’s praise earlier, but I’ll note it again here. The 25 year-old righty had a 1.63 ERA and 2.07 FIP in 77 1/3 innings this season, including a ridiculous 14.2 strikeouts per nine. He should have a Cy Young Award on his mantle by year’s end. If you think the Yankees are happy to have Cole going in Game One, you can bet that Francona is thrilled to give the ball to Bieber to counter.

The Yankees have had some success against Bieber in the past, but it wasn’t the 2020 version of Bieber. That’s not to say he wasn’t good before, because he was (3.72 ERA and 3.29 FIP in 329 innings entering this season). Last year, the Yankees knocked Bieber out of a game in the second inning in Cleveland. The Bombers tallied five hits, five runs, two walks, and a homer (Brett Gardner) against Bieber. Hopefully we see some semblance of that tonight.

Bieber.

Game Two, Tomorrow, 7:00 p.m. EDT:

Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Cleveland)

Playoff Tanaka is everyone’s favorite Tanaka. He’s got a 1.76 ERA in 8 postseason starts (46 innings), including a gem against Cleveland in the 2017 ALDS. You may remember that as the Greg Bird homer off Andrew Miller game, but it was also Tanaka’s brilliant performance that helped keep the team alive while down 2-0 in the series.

Regular season Tanaka was very good this year. Weird to think that it could be his final year in pinstripes, but that’s a discussion for another time. In 2020, Tanaka had a 3.56 ERA in 48 innings. His last start of the year against Toronto didn’t go so well, but he’s been reliable otherwise.

Carlos Carrasco (vs. Yankees)

It’s remarkable that Carrasco pitched at all this year, let alone pitch so well. He was diagnosed with leukemia last year and doubted that he’d ever pitch again. Instead, the righty delivered a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts this season. He may not be Bieber on the mound, but he’s certainly no break for the Yankees.

Carrasco happened to face Tanaka in Game 3 of the 2017 ALDS. He acquitted himself well too: 5 2/3 frames of shutout baseball. That said, a lot of Yankees hitters haven’t seen much of Carrasco before. We’ll take a repeat of the last time Carrasco faced Tanaka in the playoffs though, even if it’s a nailbiter like that one.

Carrasco.

Game Three, time TBD (if necessary):

JA Happ/Deivi García (Happ vs. Cleveland)

There’s no indication of who would start the third game of this series for the Yankees, though it’s obviously down to either Happ or García. The former would be on an extra day of rest, while the latter on a regular turn.

Happ had a pleasantly surprising 3.47 ERA in 9 starts this season and a 2.34 ERA in his final 7 starts. Meanwhile, Deivi was awfully impressive as a rookie. He may have finished with a 4.98 ERA, but that one bad start in Boston ballooned it. Despite just being 21, there’s no doubt that he’d be up for the task. The guy looks unflappable on the mound. That isn’t to say Happ isn’t deserving, because he’s pitched well enough to start this postseason. That awful performance against the Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS still lingers, though.

Zach Plesac (vs. Yankees)

Yet another Cleveland starter with a sub-3 ERA. Plesac made 8 starts this season around a time out following his COVID-19 protocol transgression. He had a 2.28 ERA and 3.39 FIP and never failed to pitch fewer than six innings in a start. In fact, six of his eight starts were 6 2/3 innings or longer.

Plesac pitched well against the Yankees last year in his one career appearance against them, but that lineup did not include Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton. It did include Kendrys Morales (lol). Plesac’s better than he was a year ago, but the lineup he’s facing will also be more tough.

Plesac.

Bullpen

RHP: James Karinchak, Nick Wittgren, Phil Maton, Cam Hill, Adam Cimber, Triston McKenzie, Adam Plutko, Aaron Civale, Cal Quantrill

LHP: Brad Hand (closer), Óliver Pérez

I already gave a snapshot of this bullpen’s dominance earlier in this preview. Everyone’s obviously rested with yesterday’s day off.

Injury Report

Cleveland has no major injuries to report. RHP Jefry Rodriguez is the one guy on the injured list. He didn’t pitch this season due to a shoulder strain. He wasn’t expected to play a big role, anyway.

You can’t predict baseball

Three games is hardly enough time for the better team to emerge, but it’s hard to dispute that the Yankees are the more well rounded team in this matchup. Cleveland may have the edge on the mound, but it’s not like the Yankees are slouches in that department. And really, the Yankees staff should be able to shut down this lineup given what we’ve seen from Cleveland in 2020. How the Bombers’ offense fares against Cleveland is another question. We know how talented the Yankees bats are, but this year’s inconsistency has been maddening. Nonetheless, the Yankees look like a better team on paper and should win this series. Some weird things can happen in a short series like this, though.

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