Three Reasons Guardians Will Beat Yankees In Game 5 Of ALDS

Throw out the records (and the payrolls) in a one-game spot


October 17, 2022

The potential for a nightmare scenario exists for the New York Yankees when they host the Cleveland Guardians on Monday night.

There’s no way the Yankees should lose this American League Division Series. That’s no disrespect to Cleveland. But the Yankees, with a payroll just shy of $265 million, aren’t supposed to lose in the ALDS, especially not to a Cleveland team with an $82 million payroll that ranks behind teams like Tampa Bay, Miami and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh!

The Yankees can’t lose in the ALDS, not after Aaron Judge’s historical season, one that might be his final in the Bronx. They can’t let it end like this ? can they?

Here they are, though, playing for their lives for a second consecutive night. Gerrit Cole put on his big-boy pants and extended the series Sunday night in Cleveland. Now, the Yankees come home with a chance to close it out, as the two teams play the fourth game in as many days following a Game 2 rainout.

Yet, you shouldn’t be surprised if Cleveland wins the relative coin flip. In fact, you should maybe expect it. Here are three reasons why the nothing-to-lose Guardians will advance Monday night.

1. Jameson Taillon doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for the Yankees
Aaron Boone undoubtedly will have a short leash (more on that in a bit), so if Taillon does struggle, he probably won’t last long. And it would not be surprising to see him struggle. The Guardians lit him up in Game 2 — he comes in with an infinity ERA for the series — as they evened the series in extra innings. That was a relief appearance for Taillon, the first of his seven-year big league career. But Cleveland might just be a tough matchup for him. The Guardians don’t strike out, and Taillon isn’t a strikeout pitcher, averaging just under eight punchouts per nine innings. Cleveland will put the ball in play against him, and in a one-game sample, that opens him up to a whole bunch of variance, especially with a very shallow right-field fence looming. Taillon also had a pretty rough second half, posting a 4.76 ERA in 19 starts, allowing 20 home runs in the process.

2. Cleveland’s biggest advantage: the bullpen
The bad news for Cleveland is that it lost Game 4 — probably would have preferred a win. The good news, though, is they come into Game 5 with a relatively fresh bullpen, one that is inarguably better than what the Yankees will trot out there. Aaron Civale will get the start for Cleveland, and he hasn’t pitched in nearly two weeks, so he’ll be on a short leash, too. Behind him, though, is an impressive array of arms highlighted by James Karinchak, Trevor Stephan and closer Emmanuel Clase. You’d have to think Terry Francona would be willing to ride any of them earlier and harder than maybe we’re used to seeing. Whether it’s coming in to stop a potential rally or giving Cleveland multiple innings to preserve a lead, there are pieces for Francona to play. Also looming in that bullpen: Cleveland ace Shane Bieber. On the other side, the Yankees bullpen is a far bigger question mark and hasn’t really impressed much at all in this series. Cleveland has a much better chance of shortening this game.

3. The Francona factor
A Yankees pessimist might also call this the Boone factor. Francona is the better manager with far more experience and success at this level. He has World Series rings. He has been to the Fall Classic more recently. He has been at the steering wheel for a team that came into New York and won not one but two do-or-die games at Yankee Stadium (even with a rainout parallel, too). And it’s not just his experience. Francona seemingly has a better feel for the game than Boone, which makes sense. Boone has the elite roster with the gargantuan payroll. The Yankees can sleep-walk to 95 wins in spite of Boone. But when the games really start to matter, we’ve seen him make missteps. The Yankees have reached the ALCS just once under his watch. The importance of managers in baseball has been diminished over the years due to evolving strategies and reliance on statistics. In one game, though, sometimes one crucial decision can make the difference, and when it comes to lever-pulling, the Guardians have the advantage Monday night.

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Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
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