The red-hot Cleveland Guardians are in the Bronx this weekend to take on the slumping New York Yankees.
This is setting up to be an interesting battle between two teams with wildly different expectations.
Similar to every season, the Yanks entered this season with sky-high aspirations. However, they’re hanging around .500 with some disappointing losses.
Meanwhile, the Guardians entered this season with zero expectations and have already begun to surpass them. The rise of Steven Kwam and the dominance of Jose Ramirez has the Cleveland offense on the right track.
But do the Guardians have the horses to take down the big bad Yankees on the road?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for the game.
Cleveland Guardians vs New York Yankees Odds
Cleveland Guardians Starting Lineup
CF Myles Straw R
LF Steven Kwan L
3B Jose Ramirez S
DH Franmil Reyes R
SS Amed Rosario R
2B Ernie Clement R
1B Josh Naylor L
RF Oscar Mercado R
C Austin Hedges R
Cleveland Guardians vs Nestor Cortes Jr.
Generally, a high launch angle is a bad thing. But not for Nestor Cortes Jr.
He’s a flyball pitcher at heart. Among pitchers to face at least 50 batters last season, he posted the 19th-highest launch angle in the lead (23.7 degrees). That put him right in between lowly pitchers Tyler Clippard and Caleb Smith.
But Cortes has success doing it. He pitched to a 2.90 ERA in 2021 based on keeping exit velocities relatively low and striking out close to 10 batters per nine innings.
Plus, Cortes can really pound the strike zone.
As everyone guessed Nestor Cortes Jr has the first immaculate inning of the year. pic.twitter.com/EdmGukhb38
— MLB chasm (@1on2out) April 17, 2022
Look for a cutter and four-seam fastball mix with a few sliders. The cutter can really move and digs in deep on righties, while the fastball rises and the slider drops. It’s a dangerous arsenal when everything is working right.
Is Cortes finally the one to slow down this unstoppable Guardians offense, however? He does lead the Yanks in bWAR this season.
Through the first stretch of the season, Cleveland paces the league in wRC+ (135), OPS (.788), and average (.280). Nobody has scored more runs than the Guardians’ 68.
Ramirez is currently the clubhouse leader for AL MVP and Kwam for AL ROY. It’s been amazing to watch these two work.
New York Yankees Starting Lineup
CF Aaron Hicks S
RF Aaron Judge R
1B Anthony Rizzo L
DH Giancarlo Stanton R
3B Josh Donaldson R
2B DJ LeMahieu R
LF Joey Gallo L
SS Isaiah Kiner-Falefa R
C Kyle Higashioka R
New York Yankees vs Aaron Civale
If anything, Civale is consistent.
He shows up during his 20-ish starts a season and gives his team a chance to win. His ERA to his xFIP hovers in the 3.8-to-4.2 range, and he generally pitches five innings.
His arsenal is a little unorthodox. He relies on a cutter (25% of the time) but then has five other pitches he mixes in at least 6% of the time. He mixes and matches well, but he doesn’t always hit his spots (4.91 BB/9 this season) and no particular pitch is overpowering (although his curveball comes close).
The Yankees are walking a lot and mostly avoiding strikeouts, but the power isn’t there yet. The Yanks will always hit for a low average (.220 this season), but their ISO mark is only 24th in the league (.122) and they rank just 16th in home runs (11).
Thank god for Anthony Rizzo, who has hit four home runs so far, walked (8) more than he’s struck out (7), and has posted a .958 OPS because of it (184 OPS+).
And he isn’t just hitting home runs. He’s hitting no-doubters.
Anthony Rizzo – New York Yankees (4) pic.twitter.com/7uAEW4N4CL
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) April 21, 2022
Cleveland Guardians vs New York Yankees Picks & Prediction
My pick: Yankees F5 ML (-150 or better)
I love Cortes on the mound and think he shuts down an overhyped Guardian offense.
Sure, the Guardians are heading the league behind the plate. But they’re way below average in exit velocity (87.9mph) and hard-hit rate (35.4%). Plus, their .351 woBA is backed up by a .322 xwOBA. They’re due for regression.
And who better than a lefty to accomplish that goal. The Guardians posted just the 19th best OPS against southpaws last season (.732), and hopefully, Cortes will take advantage of his platoon splits against Rizzo and Joey Gallo, thereby neutralizing the Short Porch in right field.
At anything better than -150, I’ll be backing the Yankees in the first half.