The New York Yankees have been informed of their dance partner for the 2022 American League Division Series: the Cleveland Guardians.
The Yankees clinched the American League East in Toronto at “Vladdy’s house,” then completed their regular season. They’ve enjoyed their bye since the sixth of October, reclining and observing multiple clubs cleaning their lockers, and going home after a Wild Card Series downfall. The Cleveland Guardians avoided that downfall, and rose past the Tampa Bay Rays in a sweep to advance to the divisional series. This sweep took a grueling 24 total innings in two games for the Guardians to come out on top; in this first-round match, we saw the exact level of depth and talent that Cleveland will bring to the Bronx.
Yankees-Guardians Division Series matchup: Keys notes and focuses
Game 1 of this best-of-five series kicks off on the 11th of October from the Bronx, with a day off in between Game 1 and 2, and the Yankees having home-field advantage. The Yankees announced their ace right-hander, Gerrit Cole, as the Game 1 starter.
So, what do we know about Cleveland? With a 92-70 record, they clinched the not-so-mighty American League Central, being the only team to hit 90+ wins. This takes nothing away from the young talented club that the Guardians carry.
With a compact pitching staff, the Guardians depend on three main arms in their rotation: Shane Bieber, Cal Quantrill, and Triston McKenzie. The starting staff is reinforced by a dependable bullpen, who strung together 15 innings of 20 strikeouts, six hits, and no runs in a 1-0 win in Game 2 of the Wild Card matchup against the Rays. The Yankees out-match the starting pitching with more options, more innings, and reliable arms, thanks in large part to the return of Luis Severino. The Yankees also carry a decent and dependable bullpen, with set-up options in late-game scenarios, despite the exclusion of Aroldis Chapman.
The Guardians employ an offensive attack that isn’t very loud, but is subtle and productive. This year, not one Cleveland hitter finished .300 or above or hit over 30 home runs. However, the lineup does contain some power and diversity. Jose Ramirez, Josh Naylor, and Andres Gimenez are names to be cognizant of in the batting order, pertaining to power. Oscar Gonzalez, Amed Rosario, Steven Kwan, Myles Straw, and Owen Miller are also go-to bats with regard to their ability to hit and get on base. The Guardians are a club that can reach base and move runners over, putting pressure on pitching and defense. They show the ability to run, and will definitely ignite the running game against New York.
The Yankees won the season series against Cleveland, 5-1, outscoring them 38-14 (though the Guardians weren’t in the midst of a 26-6 stretch back then). The Guardians are a young roster with grit, up against an experienced and proven Yankees club. Cleveland has a pitching staff to succeed in a best-of-three series, but may struggle in a five-or-seven-game series. The Yankees have the arms to go the distance. As long as Cole rises to the occasion as he does, and the other starters can offer 5+ innings, the Yankees will be in the driver’s seat, assuming the bats are hot.
The keys to this series for the Yankees are to strategically approach the matchups from 1-5 in the Cleveland lineup, pound the zone, and control the running game. From an offensive standpoint, chasing the starter will be the key to infiltrating an overused bullpen.