Once again, the Yankees outwitted the Indians by reversing strategy from Game One’s sic ’em Bieber attack to a patient walk in the park.
Those damn Yankees. It only took one night after they dissected the very probable American League Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber, with a see a first-pitch fastball and smack the hell out of the ball strategy, they completely reversed strategy last night, with near-perfect execution again.
Recognizing that Carlos Carrasco, the Indians starting pitcher, would have neither the tendency nor ability to pound a fastball in for strike one like Bieber, the Yankees returned to the heart of their offense strategy that led the league in base-on-balls and on-base percentage.
Again, the Yankees guessed right as Carrasco managed to hit the strike zone on only seven of fourteen first pitches. Four walks and four runs later, the Yankees had disposed of Carrasco after three innings, before going on to add eight more walks and six runs against the Indians bullpen.
In a wild game that was twice delayed by rain, it took the Cleveland pitching staff 211 pitches to lose to the resilient Yankees by a score of 10-9.
Yankees Power Bats Alive Again
The loss eliminated the Indians from the best-of-three Wild Card crapshoot series and vaulted the Yankees to the ALDS, where they’ll be facing the team replacing the Red Sox as their arch-rival, the red-hot Tampa Bay Rays.
Unlike the previous night, this win did not come easy for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka was not his typical postseason lights-out self, lasting only four innings while surrendering four runs in the first inning on three extra-base hits.
More typically though, Tanaka dusted himself off, tossing three straight scoreless innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees power bats did the damage again, with three home runs, capped by a grand-slammer by Gio Urshela, who has cemented his place in the Yankees lineup for years to come via his consistent play again this season.
Yankees Quickly Turn The Page – Here Come The Rays
Unlike with the Indians, whom the Yankees didn’t face during the regular season, the Yankees saw more of the Tampa Bay Rays than they would have preferred.
The Rays gave the Yanks a good old-fashioned whooping taking eight of the ten games on the schedule.
Outscored by the Rays 40-28, the Yankees were consistently outplayed and outpitched.
Unlike the Minnesota Twins, though, who seem to have a “thing” about playing the Yankees in the postseason, there’s no way the Rays will get into the heads of the twenty-eight guys in the Yankees clubhouse.
Again, the adjective best describing the team in the Bronx this year is resilient. While Tampa Bay played consistent baseball throughout the regular season, the Yankees were all over the place.
Opening the season at 16-6, then losers of fifteen of twenty at another point, the Yankees sat at .500 before they ripped off ten straight wins, jetting the team into the postseason.
The ALDS Accelerates The Fiery Rivalry
It’s no secret, the Rays and Yankees don’t like each other.
Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier summed it up: “We don’t like them; they don’t like us.” And in his news conference after the game, Rays manager Kevin Cash issued an ominous threat of retaliation, saying he had a “stable full of guys who throw 98 miles an hour.” (New York Times)
The reference was to several close pitches fired in by Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman during a rare late-season win against the Rays.
Major League Baseball duly noted Chapman for intentionally throwing at the Rays hitters and Chapman subsequently received a three-game suspension for his trespass.
Umpires and league officials will be alert, looking for any indication more trouble is brewing between the teams.
Typically, during the postseason, umpires will lengthen the rope before tossing anyone from a game. Bench jockeying can be loud and heavy between the teams, and the umpires will turn a deaf ear.
But anything that intrudes on the players’ safety will not be tolerated.
No Predictions – It’s That Close
Interestingly, as of this moment, Las Vegas has no line on the Yankees-Tampa Bay series. It’s that close, and like most of us, they need to think it over a bit.
Whether or not the Rays are installed as the favorite doesn’t matter (except for the bettors). They are the underdog to the mighty Yankees as the team that struggles to draw more than 8,000 fans to their games.
Presumably, they are also the team any fan will have difficulty naming more than two of the regulars in their starting lineup or their number three starter. You get a bonus if you know who their closer is.
But that’s what the Tampa Bay Rays are all about, and it’s the sole reason why the Yankees need to play near-perfect baseball to beat them.
They don’t care about the lure of “Yankee Tradition.” The Rays go out there and play, no matter who the opponent is.
Still – The Yankees Need The Firepower
The Yankees are not a “move-’em-along” team. They draw walks and drive them home with balls that sail into the night.
Ironically, Tampa Bay outhit the Yankees 16-13 in home runs during the regular season. If that happens again, turn out the lights.
But unlike the ten games played during the regular season, the Yankees are at full strength now, and the mere presence of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, both of whom homered in the Cleveland series, presents a new dynamic for the Rays to contend with.
Sanchez responded by hitting one over the wall by his chinny-chin-chin, mixed in with a passed ball – his trademark game since entering the league six years ago.
As much as you get the feeling the Rays are the team of destiny this season; the Yankees are just as much on a ride to erase a full decade of denial and frustration without a World Title.
Forget Vegas – What Do They Know?
I know, and I’m pretty sure you know – thirteen runs on Tuesday against one of the best pitchers in the league, followed by another ten runs last night, is a signal the Yankees are back and running on all cylinders, even when their starter gives up a full hand of runs.
DJ LeMahieu is a team unto himself. Gio Urshela continues to surprise, the Boys are back, we haven’t seen the best of Luke Voit yet, and Gleyber Torres is on a mission to erase his disappointing regular season.
Five games in five days mean Gerrit Cole will need to pitch on three days rest for Game Five (if needed), assuming he gets the start in Game Two.
Boone will need to rip the ball from his hand to stop him from doing it, but hopefully, there won’t be a need as not having to do that, as it puts Cole in line to start in Game One of the ALCS.
The Yankees have not announced a starter for Game One against the Rays, but it figures the nod will go to J.A. Happ, Boone’s intended pick for Game Three in the Cleveland series.
Whatever, the Yankees are not looking to their starting pitching to carry them to the ALCS. Tanaka’s sub-par outing proved that, and except for Cole’s anticipated gem, the bats will (or will not) carry the team.
On paper, the Yankees win in a walk. So why not go with that?