The Yankees got here with character. They showed ample heart. They could be as resilient as they are saying.
But let’s face it: They should play higher.
Sure, the Yankees made it out of Cleveland alive (at all times thing) due to money pitcher Gerrit Cole, sudden power star Harrison Bader and on a regular basis pen staple Wandy Peralta (plus just a few others after all).
But through 4 games on this ALDS vs. the low-revenue, smallish-market, mostly anonymous Cleveland Guardians, they were dead even on the scoreboard at two games apiece, a situation reflected of their play.
The Yankees and Guardians are working two days past the opposite ALDS qualifiers as they face the Game 5 finale Monday within the Bronx, and depending which side of the remaining vs. rust debate you fall, that is either an excellent thing or a curse. That discussion may never be resolved, but here’s something you realize is true: The Yankees have to begin bringing their “A” game.
The Guardians are higher than everyone gives them credit for. My editor only in the near past stopped attempting to persuade me that the playoff schedule is unfair because the Yankees get to play the Guardians while the poor Astros should play the massive bad Mariners.
I’ve written some dumb things in my life (check the story log), but when I need to live and breathe in Latest York, I resisted writing that we’re all being unfair to the Astros. I’ll assume until further notice that that notion wouldn’t be well received anywhere outside of Harris County, Texas.
Aaron Judge during Game 3 of the ALDS against the Guardians.Getty Images
Anyway, I don’t imagine it. The Guardians are usually not only “gritty,” as Game 4 loser Clarke Schmidt called them in an as appropriate a one-word summation as yow will discover, they are only plain good. They only hit 127 home runs, exactly half the variety of the Yankees, who led the majors in dingers, but that doesn’t define them.
The Guardians are a scrappy bunch. They run the bases well. They play good defense. They usually rarely beat themselves.
While they don’t have many name players, they’ve a roster of superb players who contribute to the entire. In addition they have arguably one of the best manager in the sport in Terry Francona, who gets as big a cheer in Progressive Field as any of the players, and with good reason.
In addition they finished the season on a roll, having won 21 of their final 26 games. I get that a few of those games got here against the Royals and Tigers and White Sox, two bad teams plus one which qualifies as essentially the most underachieving roster in recent baseball memory. But 21-5 against any big-league teams moves me.
The Yankees are impressed, too. But generally speaking they should step it up. Through 37 innings, the Yankees have outscored the Guardians by a measly two runs.
Normally, this wouldn’t be cause for criticism. But we’re grading on a curve here. The Yankees’ payroll is nearly exactly $200 million more – the value of a rotation of superstars (plus an All-Star catcher) – and positively needs to be enough to get through the early rounds a bit easier than this.
Give the Guardians credit. They dispatched three of their greater name players the last couple years – Francisco Lindor, Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber (who incidentally gave up the wild-card walkoff home run to Oscar Gonzalez) – and someway got even higher.
Lindor eventually received a $341 million contract with the Mets. Clevinger is relegated to emergency starting duty with the star-studded San Diego Padres and Kluber had his moment (he threw a no-hitter on his transient stopover with the Yankees) – however the Guardians are putting together quite a surprise season, due to the lesser-known players acquired in those deals (including Andres Jimenez, Amed Rosario, Austin Hedges and baby lover Josh Naylor) and just a few others equally unknown.
Giancarlo Stanton during Game 4 of the ALDS.Getty Images
After their crack baseball ops department fulfilled orders to pare all the way down to $60M, nobody expected them to contend, much less win their division going away or play the massive bad Yankees this tough. It’s mostly good on the Guardians, however the Yankees have more in them, even with half their bullpen in sick bay and a few their veterans seemingly playing at half speed.
Cole has been a series saver, throwing into the seventh inning and gathering the Yankees’ two victories. Nobody can claim he isn’t a big-game pitcher anymore. Just check the stats. He has a 2.80 ERA within the postseason, lower than within the regular season.
Bader has been the essential power source on essentially the most powerful lineup in the sport, drilling three balls well over the left field wall. He got here here with a boot on his foot and couldn’t play the primary seven weeks since coming to his hometown team. But now that he’s proving to be a primetime player, hopefully we never again should hear about how much we miss Jordan Montgomery.
And let’s not forget Peralta, who returned from injury to make the postseason roster, and get outs every day. He actually has risen to the occasion. Now let’s see among the other 23 players do the identical.