Yankees vs. Guardians: The X-factor in ALDS

Guardians vs. Yankees
AP
Michael Bennington
Tuesday October 11, 2022

Table of Contents

NEW YORK – While the AL East champion Yankees had time to rest and get ready for the Division Series, the Cleveland Guardians were fighting to stay alive.

The Cleveland Indians beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three Wild Card Series. There were only four runs scored in the first two games, which lasted 24 innings, but the Indians won the series with a 1-0 win in 15 innings on Saturday.

As the battle lines are drawn for Tuesday night’s ALDS opener at Yankee Stadium, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman admired the Cleveland squad that “came of age in the second half and sort of ran away with the division at the end.” He said, “There’s a lot of respect we have for the Guardians and their operation, from top to bottom.’’

The ALDS X-factor

Pitted against the Yankees, the Cleveland Guardians are MLB’s dark horse this season. Young and energetic, they emerged from nowhere to win the division by 11 games and routed a determined Tampa Bay team 2-0 in the Wild Card round. They showed their mettle in running games and stealing bases became their x-factor.

During the regular season, the Guardians stole 119 bases and tried to steal 146 bases more than any other postseason team. Only the Dodgers had a higher stolen base success rate (84 percent to 82 percent) than them. During the regular season, the Guardians were second worst in home runs after Detroit.

But their opponents are the New York Yankees, who are historically offensive heroes. The Guardians, like any other team, are set to attack Aaron Judge, the mainstay of the Yankees’ offense and the MLB’s biggest power hitter at present. With a good bullpen, they may concentrate on stopping Judge. However, this gives other Yankees hitters an opportunity to emerge from the record holder’s shadow and turn into New York’s x-factor in the ALDS.

If Cleveland renegades from their statement to attack Judge with respect and started pitching around him, it will be up to Anthony Rizzo, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and others to make them pay. Going by the last few games, these Yankees hitters seem to be ready for the challenge.

While Cleveland holds an advantage in a running game, the Yankees, on the other hand, were one of the best teams in baseball at stopping the running game. In 2021, they were one of the worst teams at keeping runners from stealing bases. However, thanks to an effort led by third base coach Luis Rojas, they are now the best team in baseball at stopping runners from stealing bases. A few figures:

 20212022
SB allowed86 (9th most in MLB)49 (fewest in MLB)
SB attempts against103 (8th most)77 (3rd fewest)
Caught stealing rate17% (2nd worst)36% (2nd best)

In the ALDS, it will be strength against strength. It’s a team that steals bases often going up against what might be the best team at preventing stolen bases. If Cleveland can get past the defense and steal some bases, their offense will be in good shape. If the Yankees stop the Guardians from running, they might not be able to score many runs because they don’t have much hitting power.

What happened during the season series

The Yankees beat the Cleveland Guardians 38-14 and went 5-1 against them this season. In April, the Yankees beat Cleveland in three straight games. Aaron Judge hit two home runs in one game, Gleyber Torres hit a walk-off single in the ninth inning, and Gerrit Cole went 6.2 innings without giving up a run.

In early July, the Yankees won two of three games in Cleveland, with Cole and Cortes each winning a doubleheader and Triston McKenzie dominating the Yanks (7 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs) in the finale.

The Yankees have recently trounced their AL Central rivals, finishing 25-8 this season and compiling a 47-25 record since the start of 2021.

A revision of postseason history

In 2020, the Yankees swept a best-of-three AL Wild Card series, sweeping both games in Cleveland and advancing to the ALDS.

In 2017, a surprising Yankees team beat a Cleveland team that had won 102 games. They came back from being down 0-2 in games to win a best-of-five ALDS and move on to the ALCS (won by Houston).

But Cleveland won a four-game ALDS in 2007, which featured the notorious “Cleveland Midges Game,” in which Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain was afflicted by a sudden swarm of Lake Erie insects in a Game 2 defeat.

In 1998, the Yankees had 114 wins, but they were down 2-1 to Cleveland in the ALCS. However, they came back and won their second world championship under Joe Torre.

A year ago, the Yankees were crushed by Cleveland after taking a 2-1 lead in games in the ALDS. The series came down to Sandy Alomar’s late home run in Game 4 against Mariano Rivera, which was the game-changer.

Who do you think has an upper hand in the Yankees vs. Guardians ALDS series?

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