The Yankees are one win away from advancing to the ALDS in the expanded 2020 MLB playoffs. New York slugged its way to a 12-3 win over Cleveland ace Shane Bieber in Game 1 and got a stellar outing from Gerrit Cole in the process. Cleveland, the home team in the best-of-three series, needs to win two games in a row to save its season.
Here is how you can watch the Wild Card Series matchup. All games will be played at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
|Date||Start time||Starting pitchers||TV||Odds (via William Hill Sportsbook)|
Wed., Sept. 30
7 p.m. ET
|NYY -1.5 | O/U: 8.5|
Thurs., Oct. 1
7 p.m. ET
RHP Zach Plesac vs. TBA
* if necessary
Here are three things to know heading into the Yankees vs. Cleveland Wild Card Series matchup.
They have a recent postseason history
Because of regional play, the Yankees and Cleveland did not play during the regular season this year. They have met several times in the postseason over the years though, including three seasons ago. Here is their postseason history:
- 1997 ALDS: Cleveland won in five games.
- 1998 ALCS: Yankees won in six games.
- 2007 ALDS: Cleveland won in four games.
- 2017 ALDS: Yankees won in five games.
That 1997 ALDS featured Sandy Alomar Jr. hitting a game-tying home run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning of Game 4. That was Rivera's first year as closer and, believe it or not, there were questions about his ability to handle the ninth inning. In 2017, Cleveland jumped out to a 2-0 series lead, but the Yankees stormed back to win the series in five games.
Of course, what happened in 1997 or 2017 or any year doesn't matter in 2020. Different teams with different players in different years. Trying to predict a best-of-three series is basically impossible in this game. Trying to do so using past history doesn't make it any more precise. These are two great teams and the series could go either way.
Two teams going in different directions
There have been countless studies showing regular season momentum does not necessarily carry over to October (here's one). Teams that finish the regular season well lose in the first round all the time and teams that limp to the finish go on to make deep postseason runs all the time. That's baseball.
That is relevant this series because Cleveland the Yankees finished the regular season going in very different directions. Cleveland went 9-2 in their final 11 games and outscored their opponents 54-42. The Yankees, meanwhile, went 2-6 in their final eight games and were outscored 53-35. They were held to no more than one run in three of their last five games.
Momentum may not mean anything but confidence sure does, and Cleveland is a confident team right now. They're good and they know it. The Yankees have been punched in the face a few times this year and they didn't always respond in a great way. This is their last opportunity to get up off the mat and answer the bell.
Francona will not manage this series
Cleveland manager Terry Francona will not manage this postseason. He has dealt with gastrointestinal issues since spring training and has not managed the team since Aug. 16. Francona underwent a minor procedure last month.
"Tito continues his recovery but is not yet physically able to manage the team," Cleveland president Chris Antonetti told reporters, including Ben Axelrod of WKYC, on Sunday. Should they beat the Yankees and advance, Francona will enter the Southern California bubble and stay around the team, Antonetti added. He won't be in the dugout though.
First base coach Sandy Alomar has served as Cleveland's acting manager during Francona's absence and he will continue to do so during the postseason. Alomar has long been regarded as a future manager, though this will be his first taste of managing in October. Francona is a battle-tested postseason skipper. Alomar's inexperience could be a factor at some point.