Saturday, June 22, 2024

Yankees vs. Guardians: Breaking down each team’s pitching situation for decisive ALDS Game 5 after rainout

NEW YORK — The New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians will have to wait one more day to decide their ALDS matchup. The winner-take-all Game 5 was postponed due to rain Monday night. The game will be made up at 4:07 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The winner moves on to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS, which begins Wednesday. The loser goes home.

“If you would have told me back in, I don’t know, March, we just signed up to play Game 5 in New York to go to the ALCS, I would have jogged to New York,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said after Game 4.

Game 5 is the second postponement of the ALDS. Game 2 was postponed as well, leading to Games 2-4 being played on three consecutive days. Game 5 would have made it four games in four days. The postponement gives both bullpens — and both teams in general —  a little bit of extra rest before playing a win or go home contest.

With all that mind, let’s take post-rainout stock of each team’s pitching situation heading into Tuesday’s Game 5.

Starting pitchers: Nestor Cortes vs. TBA

Right-handers Jameson Taillon and Aaron Civale were originally slated to start Game 5 on Monday night, but thanks to the rainout, the Yankees and Guardians have the option of using their Game 2 starters — Nestor Cortes and Shane Bieber — on three days’ rest Tuesday. Cleveland will announce its Game 5 starter Tuesday. The Yankees have confirmed Cortes will start.

Monday afternoon Guardians manager Terry Francona indicated Bieber would not pitch again unless they reach the ALCS, though being able to use him on short rest in Game 5 has to be tempting. Bieber has pitched well in his two postseason starts and is simply Cleveland’s best pitcher. Even on short rest, he gives the team the best chance to win Game 5 and continue playing.

Generally speaking, starters on short rest fatigue earlier, so rather than being good for 100 or so pitches, they hit the wall at 75-80 pitches. Even then, getting 75 or so pitches from Cortes (or Bieber) is better than the alternative. Taillon and Civale were expected to be kept on short leashes, so a shorter than usual leash starter on Cortes (or Bieber) wouldn’t change the plan much.

In Game 2, Cortes held the Guardians to two runs in five innings, and he dominated them in two regular season starts (three runs in 12 1/3 innings). That said, he will be on short rest, and the Guardians will be seeing him for the second time in less than a week. The fatigue and familiarity could swing the pendulum back in favor of the hitters.

“I trust in who he is and his makeup, and I know he’s going to go out there and compete really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said about Cortes prior to his Game 2 start. “Like that’s what he does really well is he loves to play the game. He’s super competitive, and I know he won’t be afraid. He’ll take it head on and kind of let the chips fall where they may.”

Bieber has never started on short rest in his career and the Guardians have handled him carefully following last season’s shoulder injury — he made 17 of his 31 starts with extra rest during the regular season. He held the Yankees to two runs in 5 2/3 innings in Game 2 and was excellent after allowing a Giancarlo Stanton two-run homer in the first inning. 

Bullpen status: A much-needed break for New York

Cleveland’s bullpen was in much better shape heading into Game 5 than New York’s. The Guardians did not use setup man Trevor Stephan or James Karinchak, or closer Emmanuel Clase, in Games 3 and 4, so all three will head into Game 5 with three days of rest. That sets them up to go multiple innings apiece. Francona’s ideal pitching plan is likely starter (Civale or Bieber on short rest) to Stephan to Karinchak to Clase, with no one else getting involved.

The Yankees, on the other hand, have worked their key relievers very hard the last few days, and the postponement gives their top guys a much-needed breather. They’ve used five different relievers in the entire series (not including Taillon in Game 2). Miguel Castro, Domingo Germán, and Lucas Luetge are on the ALDS roster but have not yet pitched. Look at the pitch counts of New York’s top relievers leading into the originally scheduled Game 5 on Monday:

In Games 2-4, Peralta became the first Yankees reliever to pitch three consecutive days this season, and while he claimed he was going to be available in Game 5, pitching four straight days rarely happens in baseball now. Peralta gets a rest and will again match up with Josh Naylor and Andrés Giménez, Cleveland’s top lefty power threats. He’s faced them in every game this series and has held them hitless.

Holmes controversially did not pitch in a save situation in Game 3 and it might’ve cost the Yankees the game. Afterward, Boone said he was only going to use Holmes in an emergency because he’s coming off a recent shoulder injury, and they didn’t want to push him back-to-back days. That said, Boone said Holmes would be available in Game 5 despite pitching in Game 4. Now the rainout gives him a day to rest anyway.

“I would, yes,” Boone said Sunday about using Holmes in Games 4 and 5 on back-to-back days. “Tomorrow, yeah, in a win-or-go home, yeah.”

It should be noted Gerrit Cole, who threw 110 pitches in seven innings in Game 4 on Sunday, told Boone he was available Monday. Boone said he would have been hesitant to use him the day after a start, though now that Cole will have a day of rest, using him out of the bullpen for an inning becomes more realistic. If push comes to shove, don’t be surprised to see Cole on the mound Tuesday. 

The Yankees were poised to enter Game 5 on Monday with some bullpen concerns given the recent workloads of their top relief arms. Now those guys get a night to rest. They’re not nearly as rested as Stephen, Karinchak, and Clase will be for Cleveland, but they are rested. On paper, the Guardians still have the bullpen advantage given the workloads, but that advantage won’t be nearly as big Tuesday as it would have been Monday.

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