2020 AL wild card series preview: Yankees vs. Indians

The Major League Baseball postseason has arrived with a tweak to the typical format. Instead of one wild card game per league to determine the final team in the LDS round, there will be eight best-of-three series to determine all eight teams who will compete in the LDS round. Also, each game in the round will take place at Cleveland, a new way to limit travel during the MLB postseason.

The Yankees came into this season as the World Series favorites and were expected to dominate their competition. However, injuries depleted their lineup throughout the season, especially in August as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres all missed time due to injury. The pitching staff has been brutalized with Luis Severino and James Paxton missing significant time. All this largely contributed to a seven-game losing streak at the end of August. The Yankees continued their inconsistent play with a five-game losing streak at the beginning of September, followed by a 10-game losing streak. They come into the postseason after losing six of their last eight games.

With all the injuries, star free agent acquisition Gerrit Cole had to anchor the starting rotation and rising star Luke Voit led the way for the lineup. Cole has been good with a 7-3 record with a 2.84 ERA but has struggled at times this season, giving up 14 home runs. Voit, on the other hand, has been better than anyone expected, leading the MLB in home runs with 22. He is also fourth in the MLB in RBI with 52.

With their lineup fully healthy, they face the team they beat in the 2017 ALDS, the Cleveland Indians. The Indians came into this season expected to be a second or third-place team in the AL Central. They won seven of their last eight games to finish 35-25, one game behind the Minnesota Twins for the division title. Unlike the Yankees, the Indians’ strength lies in their starting rotation. Shane Bieber is the undisputed with a Cy Young-worthy season. He went 8-1 with an astounding 1.63 ERA. Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac also contributed with a 2.91 and 2.28 ERA respectively. The Indians were second behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in team ERA with 3.29.

As many expected coming into the season with a weak outfield core, the Indians lineup struggled, with their team On base + Slugging Percentage (OPS) was the fourth worst in the MLB with .689. The bright spot on the lineup is third-baseman Jose Ramirez who hit 17 home runs with 46 RBIs and an OPS of .993.

This is a battle of strengths as the stout Indians’ rotation faces the powerful Yankees lineup who finished fifth in team OPS despite all their injuries. The battle between Cole and Bieber in Game 1 will be huge in determining the winner of this series. Bieber has been the best pitcher in baseball this season and I expect him to outduel Cole in Game 1 and the Indians will provide enough hitting to win a deciding Game 3. The Indians will win and advance with stellar pitching.

Prediction: Indians in three

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