NEW YORK – Forced to wait another day to play, the New York Yankees just want to get their engine started this postseason.
After Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the Yankees and Cleveland Guardians was postponed by rain Thursday on the heels of a scheduled day off Wednesday, the teams are scheduled to meet Friday afternoon. More inclement weather is expected.
As the team with the second-best record in the AL this season, the Yankees were off five days before pulling off a 4-1 victory over the Guardians in Game 1 of the ALDS on Tuesday. But another multi-day pause was a surprise.
The result is a schedule logjam moving forward. In the event the series goes the maximum five games, they will all be played on consecutive days. It limits the Yankees options if they intend to bring back scheduled Game 2 starter Nestor Cortes for a potential winner-take-all Game 5 and clearly impacts bullpen usage on either side.
“If (Cortes) goes Friday, you know, hopefully we’re not in a Game 5 situation, but if we are, we’ll see,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I mean, he would maybe be in play but not necessarily as a traditional starter.”
Cortes is game for whatever the team would need but preferred to keep the focus in the short term as he continues to wait for the first postseason outing of his career.
“To get that second-game win is going to be huge for us,” Cortes said Wednesday. “We are going to have the series on a chokehold like everybody says, and it gives us a better opportunity to advance. For me to have that opportunity and to go out there and to give the best chance that I can give to the team for a W is going to be amazing.”
The Yankees are hoping to see more of what Cortes achieved during the regular season when the left-hander went 12-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 28 starts while pitching a career-high 158 1/3 innings and getting 163 strikeouts. He ended the season by going 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA over his final five starts — allowing only two hits over 13 1/3 scoreless frames in his last two.
“He looks like you and I,” Boone said. “You feel like you could relate to him. You feel like you could probably do what he does. You can’t.”
Cleveland will counter with right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 1.17 ERA postseason; 13-8, 2.88 regular season), who opened the playoffs by allowing one run and three hits in 7 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.
Bieber’s dynamic performance continued a strong run for the 2020 Cy Young Award winner. He ended the regular season by going 5-0 over his final six starts. Bieber’s return to form is coming after he was limited to 16 starts in 2021 with a shoulder injury.
Cleveland is hoping Bieber’s second postseason start against New York goes significantly better than his first. In Game 1 of the 2020 wild-card round in an empty ballpark at Cleveland, Bieber allowed two-run homers to Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres while getting tagged for seven runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
“I think especially in this ballpark, they are able to hit for a slug and do it with guys on base,” Bieber said.
Besides getting Bieber going, the Guardians are hoping to get their offense rolling against Cortes, who is 1-0 with a 2.50 ERA in five career appearances (two starts) against them.
“Gives you looks that are different, and there’s some deception but along with the deception, there’s good stuff,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
After averaging 5.0 runs in their final 30 regular-season games, the Guardians have been held to four runs in the postseason on homers by Jose Ramirez, Oscar Gonzalez and Steven Kwan while striking out 35 times.
–Larry Fleisher, Field Level Media