Cal Quantrill pitched well. The Cleveland Guardians got a few barrels on Gerrit Cole, including an early lead on a Steven Kwan home run.
It didn’t matter. Cole shut down the lineup when he got into trouble and the Yankees produced just enough power to win behind home runs from Harrison Bader and Anthony Rizzo – and an almost home run from Josh Donaldson.
The top-notch Yankees bullpen then shut down the Guardians lineup.
It’s just really hard to beat this Yankee team. But does that mean we should back the Bronx Bombers again in Game 2?
Cleveland Guardians vs New York Yankees Odds
The Yankees opened as -130 favorites and the money flowed in on New York almost immediately. The sharp money continues to hit the Yankees and push the line further that way.
Perhaps that means Shane Bieber is slightly overvalued. Or that Nestor Cortes is slightly undervalued.
The total has bounced between 6 and 6.5, and I expect it to close in that area. Make sure you shop around for the best line if you like an angle on the total.
Cleveland Guardians vs New York Yankees Pick & Prediction
My picks: New York Yankees ML (-140 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
Sharp money continues to hit the Yankees’ ML. But I don’t care, as my strike price will go as high as -160 for this game.
Bieber is overrated. Cortes is fairly rated and is facing the worst offense in the playoffs. Moreover, the Guardians finished the regular season 27th in wRC+ against southpaws. They have very severe platoon splits that play in the Yankees’ favor.
New York’s bullpen should pitch perfect again after Cortes is pulled late. The Yankee offense will get a few runs off Bieber – as they have in the past – and win this game comfortably.
I love the Yankees in this spot.
Cleveland Guardians Starting Lineup
LF S. Kwan L
SS A. Rosario R
3B J. Ramirez S
RF O. Gonzalez R
2B A. Gimenez L
DH O. Miller R
1B G. Arias R
C A. Hedges R
CF M. Straw R
Cleveland Guardians vs Nestor Cortes
Cortes turned his career around once he got back to New York after a season in Seattle. He’s done a few things differently.
First, Cortes developed a cutter. The pitch has a -9 Run Value this season and has transformed his four-seam fastball.
Second, Cortes picked up his spin rates. The spin rate on all of his major pitches has increased significantly over the last two seasons.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
Third, Cortes started messing with the timing of his windup.
It’s all worked out well. Cortes’ ERA is at a career-low 2.44 and his xERA is at a career-low 2.70. His walk rate and home run rate plummeted to career lows. He also pitched a career-high 158 ⅓ innings, being mentioned for AL Cy Young honors a few times.
But Cortes has never pitched in the playoffs before. This is a pretty huge moment for the southpaw who is just coming into his own as a top-end rotational piece.
Good thing he’s facing the Guardians. The Cleveland offense has always been a facade, finishing dead last in MLB in Avg. Exit Velocity, Hard-Hit Rate, and Barrel Rate. The Guardians have shown their true stripes during this playoff run, scoring just four combined runs through their three games – and one of those games went 15 innings.
Cortes made two starts against the Guardians this season, pitching over six innings in each and allowing just three earned runs with 14 strikeouts to two walks. I think Cortes is in for another big start, and I may look at his strikeout prop.
New York Yankees Starting Lineup
2B DJ LeMahieu R
RF A. Judge R
1B A. Rizzo L
3B J. Donaldson R
DH G. Stanton R
LF O. Cabrera S
CF H. Bader R
SS I. Kiner-Falefa R
C J. Trevino R
New York Yankees vs Shane Bieber
About 24 months ago, Bieber was collecting his Cy Young silverware. But he also was coming off a loss to the Yankees in the AL Wildcard game where he allowed seven earned runs over just 4 ⅔ innings.
Bieber isn’t going to win the award this season, but he has a chance for revenge on Thursday night. And he’s coming off an amazing Wildcard performance.
Bieber pitched 7 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in the Guardians Wildcard win over the Yankees. He struck out eight and walked just one while allowing three hits. He was superb against a good Rays lineup.
But can Bieber stare down his personal Boogeyman in Yankee Stadium and win?
I doubt it. Bieber had a 3.51 xERA this season behind a series of lackluster batted-ball statistics. Bieber is facing down a lineup that was top-five in every batted-ball statistic. Bieber struggles with hard-hit balls and now has to face Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
The Yankees lineup has slugged .618 off Bieber in his career with six home runs in 79 plate appearances. Even Marwin Gonzales is 7-for-14 lifetime off Bieber.
I’m worried for Bieber.