News 12 Sports mailbag: Yankees vs. Indians Wild Card series
The Yankees and Indians are going head to head in the Wild Card series of the MLB playoffs. We asked our News 12 sports team for their takes on the matchup.
Pat O'Keefe: I am concerned about the Yankees. How can you not be? In this oddest of seasons, they have never fully put it together - whether it be because of injury, poor performance or the impact of the COVID layoff.
The one team I was afraid of facing, from the Yankees perspective, was the Cleveland Indians... and that's who they've got. Cleveland's pitching, led by Shane Bieber, who was the best in baseball this year, is fully capable of shutting down the Yankees bats. However, I would put the Yankees' top two pitchers in this series - Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka - up against any starter combination in these playoffs. This series will come down to whether the big names in the Yankees lineup come through. Outside of D.J. LeMahieu, there is no one who I trust 100% right now. Luke Voit has had a great season, but he seems banged up. Aaron Judge has not seemed like himself since coming off the injured list for the second time. Gary Sanchez had a historically bad season. And how can you trust Giancarlo Stanton?
PREDICTION: Yankees in 3... I think the Yankees' pitching can match Cleveland's, and I believe there is enough talent in the Yankees lineup to score enough to win two of these three games.
Dan Serafin: Every postseason, we wonder exactly what Yankees team we will get, and this year is more of the same. At times during this 60-game sprint of a regular season, the Yankees have been great. At other times they haven't. While we don't know whether Aaron Judge will perform better in 2020 than his .257 postseason batting average shows, we do know that the Yanks need production from some combination of Judge, Torres and LeMahieu. If the Yankees don't make it past the Wild Card round, that'll be the place you can point to as to why.
Gerrit Cole is key. At the top of the Yankees rotation, Cole will be facing the best pitchers in the playoffs - and he'll have to win. In the Wild Card round, that means expected AL Cy Young-winner Shane Bieber. If Cole can match up with Bieber and/or the Yankee bats can give him some help, the Yanks will win games.
In recent seasons, the Yankees have suffered some heart-breaking playoff defeats. It's crazy to think this perhaps, but are they due for some playoff luck? No one will feel sorry for the Bronx Bombers around baseball and the 27 world championships assure that, but a bounce here, an umpire's call there, those are sometimes the things that decide playoff series, especially short ones like the three-game Wild Card round. Can the Yankees get a little luck on their side?
PREDICTION: Yankees in 3.
Fred Gerteiny: It’s been an unprecedented season no doubt, but the pressure on the Yankees in this postseason is no less because of the pandemic - anything short of a World Series appearance will be considered a failure. Against the Indians, the Yankees will rely on Gerrit Cole, their $324 million ace who was signed under the premise that he was the missing piece to solve the Yankees' 11-year title drought. But the Indians have an ace as well, and perhaps just as deep a rotation as the Yankees do. Shane Bieber led the majors with a 1.63 ERA and will counter Cole. However, the Yankees own a distinct advantage with their lineup. The Indians have struggled to score runs this season, but the Bombers lineup, when healthy, is lethal. Batting champion D.J. Lemahieu and the murderer’s row of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier is far superior to that of the Tribe. In past seasons the Yankees would have a distinct advantage in the bullpen, but not this year. The Yankees' pen has been very spotty. Overall, the Indians pen may be more reliable. One area the Yankees better improve on this postseason is their defense. It’s been horrible all season. Poor fielding can kill you, especially in a short series. One of the oddities of this Wild Card series, is the Yankees home game will be Game 2, but all three games will be played in Cleveland. Probably not as big a deal in an empty ballpark.
PREDICTION: I’ll be a homer in this one, and pick the Yankees 2 games to 1.
Kevin Maher: OK, I'll say it. I don't expect to be watching Yankee games after this week. Something is just off about these Yankees. Maybe it's the streakiness of their season. Maybe it's the injuries that have prevented them from having consistent lineups. But most of all, it's their pitching. It's been like Gerrit Cole and the Colettes. Besides Cole (who also had a rough patch), no other starter had more than three wins this season. Cole is the only one proven to be an innings eater. And if Chad Green can't be reliable out of the bullpen, they won't have a chance to go far.
There's nothing better than Yankee Stadium when it's rocking in the playoffs. Nothing. Now the Yankees won't even get to enjoy the Stadium period. Yes, there's a neutral site bubble at the end of the road leveling the playing field a bit. But the Yankees are looking at six weeks of living in hotel rooms even if they make it to the bubble. I think that grind will get to them eventually.
PREDICTION: Yanks lose to Cleveland in three games
PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Adrian Kraus