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Series Preview: Yankees vs. Guardians

The evil empire is resurging as they come to town

New York Yankees v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

The New York Yankees and Cleveland Guardians have both had good starts to the season and with the Bronx Bombers coming to town, something’s gotta give.

The Yankees enter the series with a 10-3 record, having swept the Astros and won series against the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Marlins. As team they have a 118 wRC+ (6th in MLB), a 4.54 FIP (26th) and 1.9 Defensive WAR (14th).

The Guardians are 9-3 having won series against the A’s, Mariners, Twins and White Sox. They are 16th in MLB in Defensive WAR at 1.3, first in team FIP at 3.04, and eighth in wRC+ at 117. So, while both teams have started well, the quality of teams the Yankees have handled are likely better than the quality of teams the Guardians have handled.

Both teams have lost their aces, the Guardians' Shane Bieber for the season and the Yankees' Gerrit Cole for an indeterminate amount of time. Both have young shortstops they are hoping solidify their middle of the infield this season in Anthony Volpe and Brayan Rocchio. Both will need to be carried by superstar hitters in Aaron Judge and José Ramírez to get to the Promised Land.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1, Friday, April 12th: Carlos Carrasco (2.84 FIP) vs. Clarke Schmidt (3.63 FIP) 7:10PM EST

Analysis: Somehow, some way, Carrasco has actually had a decent start to the year while not being able to give his team some length. I would definitely take four innings of one-run ball if he can pull it off. Schmidt is a 28 year old pitcher trying to prove his value to the New York rotation and we’ll see how the Guardians handle a pitcher sitting around 95 mph with his fastball after seeing a fair amount of lower velocity guys, so far. Some Yankees who have had success vs. the Guardians over the past three years include Juan Soto 182 wRC+, Alex Verdugo 137 wRC+ and Aaron Judge 125 wRC+. This would be a big game to steal, even if the weather forecast makes it seem more likely to take place as a double-header on Saturday.

Game 2, Saturday, April 13th: Triston McKenzie (5.77 FIP) vs. Luis Gil (2.77 FIP), 6:10PM EST

Analysis: This will be a good test to see if Triston McKenzie can build on some positive signs in his last outing, a win against the White Sox. He’s going to need to hold his delivery more effectively and avoid control problems that have plagued him. Gil has had a great start to the season and the Yankees will need to rely on the 25 year-old this year. Some Guardians who have had success vs. the Yankees over the past three years include Jose Ramirez at 157 wRC+ and Austin Hedges at 147 wRC+ (I hope no one reads into those Hedges splits, but if he wants to somehow be magically a Yankee-killer, I’m here for it).

Game 3: Sunday, April 14th: Logan Allen (3.98 FIP) vs. Nestor Cortes (3.16 FIP), 1:40PM EST

Analysis: Which pitcher is Logan Allen - the pitcher who dominated the Mariners or the pitcher who gave up five runs to the White Sox? The likelihood is that he’s somewhere in between. It would be nice if the former version showed up to go against the Yankees’ version of an innings-eating lefty in Nasty Nestor, who has pitched well against the Guardians. Cleveland will need lefty mashers David Fry and Ramon Laureano to show up to get this one, if threatened thunderstorms don’t nix the series finale.

IF the Guardians can get some good performances from their starters, they may have an advantage should the games become bullpen affairs, as the Guardians pen enters the series with a 2.46 FIP and the Yankees relievers arrive in town with a 4.25 FIP. However, these are all small sample sizes and going against the Yankees hitters. We will see if the Guardians’ leading hitters - Josh Naylor at 190 wRC+, David Fry at 180 wRC+, Steven Kwan at 172 wRC+ and Andres Gimenez at 165 wRC+ can keep it going and if Jose Ramirez can find his stroke against familiar rivals. We will see if Cleveland’s pitching can find a way to cool off the Yankees’ hitting leaders Anthony Volpe 206 wRC+, Juan Soto 196 wRC+, Oswaldo Cabrera 173 wRC+ and Giancarlo Stanton at 153 wRC+.

The Yankees coming to town always brings up good and bad memories for me, and I almost hate watching the games because of how much I care about beating this franchise. I know it’s just a three-game series in April, but the Guardians hanging in against the Yanks and even finding a way to win another series would be a great early sign of the kind of team we have for 2024. But, in any case, it will still be too early to say too much no matter how the series goes. Let’s resolve - me first and foremost - to relax and enjoy the ride.