CLEVELAND – The Astros and Mariners gave us an 18-inning pitching duel in the longest 0-0 battle in postseason history. Phillies vs. Braves and Padres vs. The Dodgers gave us two of the biggest upsets seen in October.
It was all very entertaining. But none of those matchups gave us a Game 5 in this round of the Division Series.
So, thank you very much, Yankees and Guardians. We needed one of these.
The champions of the Eastern and Central Divisions are back in the Bronx after having played a tense, close and fantastic ALDS so far that will now be defined in a decisive duel on Monday night at Yankee Stadium.
“If you had told me in March that we would be in a Game 5 in New York, with a chance to go to the ALCS, I would have run all the way to New York,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “I’m excited”.
Aren’t we all like this? In these four games, the Yankees and Guardians offense, generating from completely different angles, is 15 runs for the mighty Yankees and 13 for these feisty Guardians. They have been closed and fascinating games.
The passage to the ALCS, which begins on Wednesday in Houston, is at stake. And here we leave the five keys that could decide the result.
1. The unexpected openers
Remember, the rain that moved Game 2 one day eliminated the possibility of these teams bringing their Game 2 starters (Néstor Cortés Jr. for the Yankees and Shane Bieber for the Guardians) on three days off. So Jameson Taillon for New York and Aaron Civale for Cleveland will take the mound.
Taillon had moments of brilliance but also inconsistency in 2022, posting a league-average ERA of 3.91 and ERA+ of 100 in 177 1/3 innings. He was effective at limiting hard hits, but the reality is that hitting the ball hard isn’t the modus operandi for these Guardians, as we saw when they pinned the loss on Taillon in a rare relief outing in Game 2. But pitching now in a normal starting role should benefit Taillon, who was fantastic in Toronto when the Yankees clinched the division on Sept. 27 (two runs in 7 1/3 innings).
Civale had an up-and-down year, interrupted by three trips to the disabled list. His overall numbers aren’t good (4.92 ERA, 78+ ERA), and the Yankees scored 10 runs on him in nine innings over two starts. However, he finished the year well (3.27 ERA, .559 OPS from opponents in four starts between September and October), although opponents had a 40.4% hard-hitting rate, so obviously this will be a tough task for him. the.
Neither Taillon nor Civale have started a postseason game. Zero pressure, guys.
2. The Guardians’ bullpen is rested
Francona can give himself after getting Civale out fast. And if the Guardians take the lead early, the manager is likely to be pretty aggressive with a bullpen whose main arms rested over the weekend. In Game 2 in New York, Cleveland had 1 1/3 innings (21 pitches) from Trevor Stephan, two-thirds of an inning (29 pitches) from James Karinchak and 2 1/3 innings (33 pitches) from Dominican closer Emmanuel Clase. Those are the men Francona trusts most in times of pressure, and none were used in Games 3 and 4.
So they’ll be ready, and the Class’s ability to give Guardians multiple episodes is a tremendous weapon in a single-elimination game like this.
Overall, Cleveland relievers have allowed just two runs and nine hits with 34 strikeouts and eight walks in 25 2/3 innings this postseason.
It’s a different matter on the Yankees’ bullpen side, which has allowed five runs in 12 2/3 innings this series. In order to force Game 5 they needed an inning of work from Dominican Wandy Peralta on Sunday, who had just pitched 2.2 acts between Friday and Saturday. That could limit the availability and/or effectiveness of such an important piece, who recently returned from a back injury.
And of course there’s the shoulder problem of Clay Holmes, who pitched an inning Sunday after not being used Saturday by manager Aaron Boone.
In short, the Yankees are dealing with a bullpen that has been dramatically affected by injuries this year. And that’s why Cortes is there as an interesting story, ready to relieve on the day he normally bullpens, even if the Yankees would like to avoid that scenario.
“We’ll see,” Boone said. “You know, we’ll see. Hopefully I won’t have to use it. But he’ll be ready to pitch.”
4. Will we see the real Aaron Judge?
With the notable exception of the 449-foot homer in Game 3, Judge has been held in check by the Cleveland pitching staff.
In this ALDS, he is 2-for-16 with one walk and nine strikeouts. And for life against Cleveland in the playoffs he is 4-for-45 with two home runs and 29 guillotines. The Guardians have done an excellent job of throwing fastballs to him low in the zone and avoiding those middle-of-the-plate pitches that Judge might send to another county. It’s one of the big reasons this series is going to a fifth game.
While the Yankees have had other bats stand up — none better than new hero Harrison Bader — Judge’s presence is still there, dangerous as ever.
By forcing Game 5, the Yankees guaranteed at least one more home game for Judge before free agency. The man who broke the AL home run record was booed in the Bronx in Game 2. Will there be boos or gunshots in Game 5?
5. Does experience matter?
The inexperience of the youngest team in the Majors simply hasn’t been a factor this season and these playoffs. The Guardians debuted 17 rookies this year and have sent two very “raw” rookies into the fray — Gabriel Arias and Will Brennan, who combined to play 27 regular-round games — in some pretty big moments this season. Serie. And yet, here they are, one win away from the ALCS.
But now they will have the most important test of all. The Guardians showed some rare defensive woes in Game 1 under the bright lights of Yankee Stadium before looking like themselves again in Game 2. Now they’re in a sudden-death matchup against a far more experienced Yankees lineup. in October and a franchise that has a .609 winning percentage (fourth-best all time) in single-elimination contests.
It is one last clash between the youngsters and the Yankees, between the “Bloopers” and the Bombers. Hopefully this decisive Game 5 is as special as this series deserves.