Rainout gives an edge to Guardians, pushes Yankees to backfoot

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Thursday night was supposed to be Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Guardians. Instead, the game was moved to Friday because of rain. This, along with the already odd playoff schedule, made a two-day break between Games 1 and 2. The result is a series that, if it goes all the way to five games, could need four games in four days.

In a playoff series, where managers usually use days off to get the most out of their best pitchers, this can be a big problem. It could even change the way the series is run. Now, Cleveland was already behind, both in terms of wins (the Yankees were up 1-0) and the way things looked for the future. But the fact that Terry Francona and his team may have to play four games in four days may help them by highlighting the one big advantage they have over the Bronx Bombers.

Let’s think about how the crunch affects other things.

Limited Role for Yankees best pitcher Cortes

Because the Guardians had to win the wild-card series first, Cleveland’s best player, Bieber, couldn’t start Game 1 against Gerrit Cole. In Game 2, they are going to face Nestor Cortes, the Yankees’ left-handed breakout star who had the best ERA on the team this year. The rain day doesn’t change anything about Game 2, since both pitchers will be getting varying amounts of extra rest. It does get rid of any realistic chance of them coming back to make traditional starts in Game 5. It’s not unusual to get three days off. With two days off, any contributions would be limited to one or two innings.

The No. 4 starters just got important

Even before the playoffs started, it was clear that those “swingmen” who can pitch in the bullpen or as a starter would be important. But in this ALDS, they could take on bigger roles faster than expected.

Aaron Civale, a 27-year-old right-handed pitcher, is Cleveland’s No. 4, while the Yankees would turn to Jameson Taillon. Both haven’t pitched yet in this postseason, but Taillon was warming up in Game 1 so Aaron Boone could use him as a relief pitcher.

Taillon made 32 starts for the Yankees and pitched pretty much average baseball for 177 1/3 innings, giving him an ERA of 3.91. Even though Civale’s 4.92 ERA for the whole season looks bad, he got back on track late because he was hurt a lot. From August 10 on, he made eight starts and had an ERA of 3.35.

If they met directly, it would be hard to tell too much one way or another. They would also have short leashes and ready-made bullpens to run into. About that…

Guardians boast better bullpen depth

The most important thing about Taillon being called up for a possible start is what it might mean for the Yankees bullpen. Late in the season, Scott Effross, Ron Marinaccio, and Zack Britton were all injured, joining Michael King and Chad Green, who had been hurt earlier in the season. Aroldis Chapman was not on the team because he missed a workout.

The best four arms in this pen right now are Clay Holmes, Lou Trivino, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Wandy Peralta. Boone used three of them to win the first game. Everyone should be fresh after two days off, but Taillon may have been one of the next men up. Now, he needs to be treated carefully if he wants to keep being a starter.

Cleveland and Terry Francona don’t have to worry about such things. One of the best bullpens in the league is the group that went nine innings without giving up a run in Game 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Their top seven players are all healthy and still on the team, but Nick Sandlin got hurt in the wild-card round and had to leave. That includes Emmanuel Clase, who has a swerving triple-digit cutter and is a great closer. Since the Yankees don’t have any days off, Francona might have to use him a little less aggressively. However, he still looks like a weapon the Yankees can’t match.

Now, the Guardians’ strong bullpen can’t help them score runs because their approach, which involves a lot of contacts but not much power, hasn’t led to any runs so far in the postseason. And it won’t get easier. All season, Cleveland’s offense has been terrible against left-handed pitchers like Cortes. And Cole, who shut them down for 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, will start Game 4 after normal rest. But if they could win one or two games and push this series into the later stages, master strategist Francona would at least have some interesting options to play with.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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