I must have missed that tweet. You know, the one where the @Yankees finally conceded that they were only a Wild Card team this season. Their public relations team must have just forgotten. I’m sure they were exhausted after pushing out hundreds of updates on how they were closing in on the division for the past two weeks.
Let’s Go Tribe
At the risk of sounding like an AL East snob, I don’t see any scenario in which the Twins beat the Yankees. Obviously, I hope that they do – nothing is quite as refreshing as bathing in the tears of your enemy. But, Severino is pitching great and rookie strike-out king Aaron Judge will probably bunt for a couple of home runs in their joke ballpark.
The Wild Card remains important, however, because it throws off NY’s rotation heading into their series with Cleveland on Thursday. Unless Girardi does something unusual and goes with Gray, Tanka, or Sabathia against Minnesota to save Severino for the ALDS opener, NY likely won’t throw their ace until game three. Even then, that would be on only four days’ rest. They could, according to Ken Davidoff of the NY Post, even slide him further to game four depending on the matchup.
React to contact
If the Tribe takes the first two in Cleveland, which they certainly could, the chances are very good that New York goes with Severino on four days rest in the potential elimination game. Sabathia would probably follow in game four.
If NY-CLE split the first two, I would expect Sabathia to pitch game three to give Severino the extra day off. Sabathia may be physically incapable of fielding his position or saying no to a second plate at the buffet, but he is still a big game pitcher and a solid game-three starter.
Where Cleveland is vulnerable
Francona is in a tough spot – which may sound strange considering he just won 102 games and seemed to clinch the playoffs in early May. The top of his rotation is great – better than NYs. But once you get past Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer, where are you? There’s a reason he’s supposedly considering a three-man rotation in the playoffs.
New York has more depth in their rotation. Severino is exceptional – perhaps as good as Kluber. Neither Gray, Tanaka, nor Sabathia are as good as Carrasco – but the three of them are better than the balance of Cleveland’s arms.
What this means is that Cleveland needs to wrap up this series fast. If this goes five games, the Tribe would have thrown Kluber and Carrasco twice. This would have Bauer leading off the ALCS and put Kluber at game two, and potentially six.
Play for Today, Plan for Tomorrow
Cleveland could get through Houston or Boston in the ALCS with that rotation. But what will the staff look like in the World Series. How many extra innings will the Tribe’s three best arms have thrown before they even get there?
In 2004 we learned that Tito is the ultimate play for today manager. He doesn’t look past games, let alone series. At least not publically. But, he better. He will need Kluber and Carrasco at least twice in the ALCS and World Series if he gets there. He better deliver the knock-out blow to NY early.