Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Yankees vs. Guardians: Five things to know heading into Tuesday’s winner-take-all ALDS Game 5

NEW YORK — Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians will finally — finally! — wrap up their ALDS matchup. Game 2 was rained out last week and Game 5 was rained out Monday night. They’ll now play the winner-take-all contest Tuesday afternoon. Here’s how you can watch the finale.

The Yankees and Guardians conclude the ALDS on Tuesday afternoon and the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies will begin the NLCS on Tuesday night, four hours after first pitch in the Bronx. It is the first time in baseball history two postseason rounds overlap. Here are a few X-factors for the NLCS. Now here are five things to know leading into Game 5 between the Yankees and Guardians.

1. The weather will cooperate

First things first: There will not be another two-and-a-half hour rain delay Tuesday. The weather in New York is chilly (temperatures in the 50s at game time) but clear. The Yankees and Guardians will have no trouble beginning Game 5 on time and playing an uninterrupted nine innings. First pitch is scheduled for 4:07 p.m. ET.

2. Civale will start, not Bieber

Monday’s postponement allows both clubs to bring their Game 2 starter back on short rest in Game 5 if they so desire. The Yankees are jumping at the chance and will give the ball to Nestor Cortes on three days’ rest, rather than Jameson Taillon, who had been scheduled to start Monday night. The Guardians, meanwhile, will still give the ball to Aaron Civale, not Shane Bieber.

Guardians manager Terry Francona said Monday that Civale would start Game 5 even if was postponed, and he’s sticking to it. It’s possible Bieber could come out of the bullpen in Game 5, though wouldn’t it be smarter to have him start the game and face the top of the lineup rather than send the homer-prone Civale out there against Aaron Judge & Co.? I think so, but that’s easy for me to say when I’m behind a keyboard and don’t have to live with the decision.

It should be noted Cleveland has handled Bieber with caution since last season’s shoulder injury (he made 17 of 31 regular season starts on extra rest this year) and they truly may not want to use him Tuesday. Prior to Monday’s rainout, Francona did say Bieber won’t pitch again until the ALCS. Maybe they really are sticking to it.

3. New York’s bullpen got a breather

The Guardians were all set to have a big bullpen advantage Monday night. Setup men Trevor Stephan and James Karinchak, plus closer Emmanuel Clase, have not pitched since Game 2 and would have gone into Monday night with two days’ rest and thus a chance to work multiple innings each. Now those three will be even more rested in Game 5 on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, New York’s bullpen was taxed heading into Monday night. The Yankees leaned on their top relievers heavily in Games 2-4, with lefty Wandy Peralta pitching in all three games and righty Jonathan Loáisiga pitching twice (and warming up in the other game). Also, the Yankees don’t want to use closer Clay Holmes on back-to-back days following a late season shoulder issue.

Monday’s rainout gave everyone a breather. Using Peralta four straight days is no longer a concern. Using Holmes back-to-back days is no longer a concern. Loáisiga and also Lou Trivino got a break. The Yankees are still at a bit of a disadvantage because their top relievers have worked a lot this series, though that disadvantage won’t be as great Tuesday as it would have been Monday.

4. Cleveland is looking to snap a historic losing streak

Dating back to Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, Cleveland have lost 10 consecutive postseason games when they had a chance to be eliminated, the longest such streak in baseball history. They’ve also lost seven consecutive winner-take-all postseason games. Here are their last 10 elimination games:

  • 2020 AL Wild Card Series Game 2: 10-9 loss to Yankees
  • 2018 ALDS Game 3: 11-3 loss to Astros 
  • 2017 ALDS Game 5: 5-2 loss to Yankees (winner-take-all)
  • 2016 World Series Game 7: 8-7 loss to Cubs (winner-take-all)
  • 2013 AL Wild Card Game: 4-0 loss to Rays (winner-take-all)
  • 2007 ALCS Game 7: 11-2 loss to Red Sox (winner-take-all)
  • 2001 ALDS Game 5: 3-1 loss to Mariners (winner-take-all)
  • 1999 ALDS Game 5: 12-8 loss to Red Sox (winner-take-all)
  • 1998 ALCS Game 6: 9-5 loss to Yankees
  • 1997 World Series Game 7: 3-2 loss to Marlins (winner-take-all)

There were some real heartbreakers in there, namely Edgar Renteria’s walk-off hit in the 11th inning in 1997 and Ben Zobrist‘s game-winning hit in the 10th inning in 2016. Cleveland has not won a postseason game when they had a chance to be eliminated since Game 6 of the 1997 World Series. They’ll look to snap this historic elimination game losing streak in Game 5 on Tuesday.

5. The ALCS begins Wednesday

The loser of Game 5 goes home and the winner moves on to face the Astros in the ALCS, which begins Wednesday night. Tuesday was originally an off day between the ALDS and ALCS, but that’s gone now, so the winner of Game 5 will travel directly to Houston after Game 5 and play Game 1 of the ALCS less than 24 hours later. They won’t get a chance to rest.

Because MLB squeezed the new 12-team postseason format into 2022’s existing postseason schedule for the 10-team format, there is only one off day in the ALCS. This is what the winner of Game 5 on Tuesday will have to deal with:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 18: ALDS Game 5 in New York
  • Weds., Oct 19: ALCS Game 1 in Houston
  • Thurs., Oct. 20: ALCS Game 2 in Houston
  • Fri., Oct. 21: off day
  • Sat., Oct. 22: ALCS Game 3 at home
  • Sun., Oct. 23: ALCS Game 4 at home
  • Mon., Oct. 24: ALCS Game 5 at home (if necessary)
  • Tues., Oct. 25: ALCS Game 6 in Houston (if necessary)
  • Weds., Oct. 26: ALCS Game 7 in Houston (if necessary)

If the ALCS goes the distance, Games 3-7 will be played on five consecutive days. That could (will) wreak havoc on pitching staffs.

The larger point is the winner of Game 5 will play the ALDS on Tuesday and the ALCS on Wednesday. There’s no break at all, and there’s nighttime travel from New York to Houston as well, while the Astros have been resting up. There’s nothing you can do about a rainout. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the weather doesn’t cooperate. But still, the Game 5 winner has a tough schedule the next few days.

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