On Tuesday night, the New York Yankees were able to slip away from the Minnesota Twins in a Wild Card bout for the ages. Overcoming by a score of 8-4, the “Baby Bombers” have earned the right to advance to the ALDS, and face off against a Cleveland Indians club that is favored by many.
Finishing the regular season with a record of 102-60, it marked the Indians’ third time in franchise history with 100+ wins, last occurring in 1995. The franchise came up short in the 2016 campaign, but are eager to avenge themselves, and that starts by attempting to overcome the Yankees.
Here is a look at each aspect of the upcoming series for the Yankees, which will debut on Thursday night:
Starting Pitching Woes
By starting 23-year old Luis Severino against the Twins, the Yankees received a rather bitter-sweet moment. On one hand, Severino may have lost a bit of confidence after allowing 3 earned runs on 4 hits in just .1 innings of play. On the contrary, the ace only tossed for 29 pitches, which was less than both David Robertson and Chad Green. This may allow for him to receive a hesitant nod from Joe Girardi in terms of being thrown back within the ring of fire in the upcoming series.
Aside from Severino, the starting rotation for the Yankees has been a true wild card. Veteran C.C. Sabathia led the franchise in wins through the regular season (14), but how heavily can New York expect for him to go in a single outing?
The supposed ace in Masahiro Tanaka finished the 2017 season with 94 earned runs, which was enough for the tenth-most in the American League this year, but also pitched the seventeenth-most innings in the AL at 178.1. According to sources, if Tanaka does indeed opt-out of his player option, the Yankees will not pursue him in free agency. Could this be the last postseason in pinstripes for the 28-year old?
Overall, the Yankees will likely rely on their bullpen for a vast majority of their time in the postseason, but these starters need to start gathering quick outs. With multiple voids within the Yankees clubhouse, starting pitching issues are something Yankees fans will be on the edge of their seats for.
Tuesday night for the Yankees marked the third time in postseason history that a bullpen has tallied 13 Ks in a nine inning game. Luckily for the franchise, where they lack in starting pitching, they make up for in their bullpen strength. I would hand full credit to the bullpen for only allowing one run and five hits in 8.2 innings of play to a deadly Twins lineup, who happened to finish seventh in the MLB in runs scored per game in 2017.
While the Yankees may contain a lethal bullpen, it’s important that they just used up four pitchers on 142 pitches just two days ago. In fact, all four relievers came in and tossed for 20+ pitches on Tuesday night. Girardi did an efficient job at managing the bullpen and leading the Yankees to their Wild Card victory, but if the starting pitchers continue to find themselves in hot water early on, the burden may fall on the shoulders of relievers that are forced to come in sooner than expected.
Power Within the Starting Lineup
One aspect of the Yankees lineup that is dominant in all aspects has been the power behind their lineup. With 856 runs scored in the regular season, the only franchise to surpass that amount happens to be the Houston Astros (896). Between Aaron Judge (52), Gary Sanchez (33), Didi Gregorious (25), and Brett Gardner (21), the Yankees have utilized the long ball as if it were the Home Run Derby.
Going up against arguably the most complete starting rotation in the Indians, the discipline at each plate appearance will be a true testament to which franchise is worthy of moving onto the ALCS.
On a side note, one thing I noticed on Wild Card Tuesday happened to be batters #5-9 ending the night 2-16 with 4 strikeouts, which could prove to be detrimental to a club that heavily relies on their offense to win ball games.
Volume on the Bench
With a bench that currently consists of names such as Matt Holiday, Chase Headley and more, the Yankees have put forth a handful of moves in the month of July to ensure that they have the right amount of pieces in order to contend with the top of the MLB talent. Placing veterans within the bench is an important aspect of the game, because in most cases, these are players that are comfortable with coming in later on and being held to higher expectations.
The Yankees offense is a huge key to why they won 91 regular season games, as well as an additional postseason one. This was a club that many experts predicted would undergo a rebuild process, but instead, the franchise reloaded, and placed themselves into the conversation of a World Series title.
The Yankees will be viewed as underdogs heading into Thursday night, but with all this in mind, could New York surpass expectations once again?