To the astonishment of many baseball pundits, the Cleveland Guardians’ improbable season is continuing. The Guardians swept their wild card series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, winning two thrilling games by classic Guardians-like scores: 2-1 and 1-0. The Saturday game was a playoff baseball classic that featured brilliant pitching and defensive play, producing a scoreless tie for 15 innings before Oscar Gonzalez hit a walk-off homer to allow the Guardians to celebrate, as shown above, and advance.
Now the Guardians’ road gets tougher–and more intriguing–because next up are the fearsome New York Yankees. The two teams are at the opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. The Yankees have the third-highest payroll in major league baseball, at $211.2 million, while the Guardians had the lowest, at $29.1 million. (In fact, the Yankees have one player, Gerrit Cole, whose $36 million salary in 2022 is greater than the Guardians’ entire team payroll, and the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton’s $29 million comes close.)
What’s more, the Yankees aren’t called the Bronx Bombers for nothing; they hit the most home runs in the major leagues this year, with 254–twice as many as the Guardians’ 127, which came in second to last. Aaron Judge’s 62 alone is almost half of Cleveland’s total dinger output. And the home run statistic should be a bit daunting for Guardians fans, because ESPN points out that in last year’s playoff, the team that hit the most home runs went 25-2 (there were 10 games where the teams had an equal number of homers).
And finally, the Yankees dominated the season series with the Guardians, winning 5 of 6 games by a combined score of 38-14 and mashing 12 homers. If this playoff series turns into a slugfest, it could get ugly. Incidentally, the Yankees not only have power, they have a fine pitching staff, too. Their team ERA for 2022 was 3.30, which was good enough to finish third in the big leagues. (The Guardians finished sixth in team ERA, at 3.46.)
In short, this Yankees-Guardians series presents just about every storyline you could want: the big payroll team against the lowest-paid team in the league, the power team versus the small-ball team, the experienced lineup versus a team with lots of rookies, the team that was expected to dominate matched up against the scrappy underdogs who have overachieved all season. Guardians fans hope that their team, and its pitching staff, has righted the ship since those drubbings at the hands of the Yankees earlier in the season–they last played on July 3–and can put up a fight. We think our team has one of the best managers in baseball in Terry (aka Tito) Francona, who has done a fantastic job this year and who can be trusted to put the Guardians in the best possible shape to match up with the Yankees.
The series starts tomorrow, with Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole–the $36 million guy–taking the ball for the Bombers. Cleveland’s starter is expected to be Cal Quantrill, and if the game is close we’ll see a lot of the Guardians’ bullpen, too. I’ll be watching and rooting hard for the Clevelanders, who have supplied their fans with many wonderful memories already this season. We’re just hoping that the magic continues, and the Guardians find a way to scratch and claw and pitch their way past the Damn Yankees.