The Yankees are on display in prime time by all networks. Here’s a backdrop if you are fan of baseball just tuning in to the ALDS drama.
The Yankees are a team on a mission, and that’s the first thing you need to know about a franchise that has undergone a decade without a World Title, inexcusable for a team that has 27 championships, the most of any major league team.
For Yankees fans who have followed the team through a roller-coaster season that saw them leap off to a 16-6 start, seemingly moving easily into their pre-ordained selection as one of the two best teams in the league along with the Dodgers.
While the Dodgers marched along to the beat, finishing with the best record in baseball over the shortened season, the Yankees found themselves at the .500 mark in the first week of September.
Reeling off a ten-game win streak, along with the return of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo from stints in IL, the Yankees reversed themselves, with a momentum that has carried them forward to a 1-0 lead in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Ron Darling is excellent as the TBS analyst for the ALDS series, but here are a few things to watch as the series continues:
Yankees Juggle The Lineup
- With a lefty starting for the Rays, Yankees manager Aaron Boone went with Clint Frazier (right) over veteran and red-hot Brett Gardner in Game 1. Frazier responded with a home run.
The intrigue surrounds the age-old tension between a player at the end of his career, and perhaps playing his final games in pinstripes (Gardner) and the up-and-comer player (Frazier), with what Yankees GM Brian Cashman has called the quickest bat he’s ever seen.
Yankees Aaron Judge On A Mission
- Aaron Judge, by his own admission, spent the entire offseason ruing about the Yankees loss to the Astros in the 2019 ALCS. Aside from the eventual “cheating” charges levied against the Astros, Judge embarked on a regimen to prepare himself for the 2020 season.
Unknown at the time, Judge had suffered an undiagnosed set of broken ribs. This would limit his at-bats for the Yankees during the shortened 2020 season when it was revealed during Spring Training 1.
A man on a mission to erase what he termed as a “failure” by the Yankees last year, despite winning 103 games during the regular season, Judge is burning with desire now.
His two-run home run against Cleveland ace Shane Bieber (video below) in the first inning of Game 1 of the Wild Card Series set the tone for the Yankees, and one they have yet to relinquish.
A home run last night against the Rays, a screaming line drive that left his bat at 110 mph accented his role as the Yankees go-to guy.
Boone Finds The Right Place For Deivi Garci
- Beyond Gerrit Cole, the Yankees ace imported from Houston; the rotation remains in flux. It’s not so much that Aaron Boone can’t find someone as it is choosing between an array of starters who, depending on the series situation, give the Yankees the best chance to win.
To wit, keep your eyes on Deivi Garcia, who has been tabbed by Boone to start Game 2. The Yankees are careful where they place Garcia, a rookie who has never pitched in postseason play.
If the Yankees had lost last night’s game, Boone’s choice would have certainly switched to the veteran and proven successful playoffs pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka.
The Yankees believe in Garcia, a pitcher with electric stuff. But beyond that, they are convinced he will not be affected when a nationwide audience tunes in with bright lights on the big stage.
The Engine That Drives The Yankees
- Do not miss a single at-bat by DJ LeMahieu. Working the count, finding a pitch to hit, the Yankees hit machine has won two batting titles, one in each league.
Drill deep to find a Yankees box score in which LeMahieu did not have two hits, especially when in counts in these playoffs games.
Giancarlo Stanton: Retribution And Peace Of Mind
- Much maligned and rightly so given his gargantuan contract and yearly salary, Giancarlo Stanton, teamed with Aaron Judge, transforms the Yankees.
His grand-slam home run last night brought well-earned smiles as he rounded third and on into the dugout, as another Yankee afflicted with an assault of injuries.
The TBS cameras may have overdone it with excessive zeroing in on Stanton, but this was big, and it’s a signal there’s more to come.
Yankees: Bullpen Utilization
- Finally, look closely at how Aaron Boone utilized every player on his 28-man roster, especially how he uses his bullpen.
Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees closer, got hot last night and was poised to come into the game to pitch the ninth. Alas, he was not needed as the Yankees extended their lead, allowing Luis Cessa to pitch the final inning.
With no days off over five consecutive games, this is big, as it was for all relievers in the Yankees pen following six strong innings from Gerrit Cole.
Tonight, as well as future games in the series, will be different. Chapman, for instance, is available for either or both of the next two games. Zack Britton, not so much, but these are the playoffs, and if Boone needs him, he’ll be there.
- The Yankees Rays series is filled with intrigue, and the reason players have put up with inconveniences and “protocols” to be where they are is not a mystery.
America – Meet The 2020 Yankees
Like many baseball fans across America, this may be your first opportunity to see the best of the AL East.
Likewise, I’m looking forward to watching West Coast teams like the Dodgers, Padres’, and A’s, do battle in a season that wasn’t supposed to happen.
Watch those Yankees, though. Love or hate ’em, as TBS has determined, they are the best show in town.