The 2020 MLB postseason is upon us, and the American League side of the bracket is absolutely loaded. Arguably, the most intriguing three-game series of the first round will involve the New York Yankees visiting the Cleveland Indians in a matchup of the two best non-division-winners. The moneyline could not be much tighter for Game 1 on Tuesday night with the Yankees listed at -109 and the Indians at -101.
The Indians will enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in baseball. Cleveland won nine of its last 11 games to finish 10 games over .500 and nearly won the AL Central. Instead, the Indians will have to settle for the top Wild Card spot as they enter the playoffs with a ton of confidence and momentum.
On the other hand, the Yankees didn’t play well during the final week of the regular season. The Bronx Bombers scored 43 runs over three games in the middle of September in the midst of a nine-game winning streak. But since that winning streak ended, the Yankees are just 2-6. In fairness, they didn’t have much to play for coming down the stretch, but they still need to flip a switch when the playoffs begin.
Earn That Paycheck
Gerrit Cole will get the start for the Yankees on Tuesday. The club spent a fortune to sign Cole during the offseason for games like this. Of course, Cole has lived up to that contract thus far, going 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA in his 12 starts during the regular season. Perhaps more importantly, Cole was at his best down the stretch, giving up a total of three runs over 27 innings of work in September.
The good news for the Indians is that Ramirez and Santana have gotten hot down the stretch, serving as a catalyst for the team’s winning streak. However, Lindor has underperformed all season, as has the rest of Cleveland’s lineup.
Cleveland will send ace Shane Bieber to the mound in Game 1. Bieber won the pitching version of the Triple Crown during the regular season, making him the obvious choice for Cy Young honors in the America League. In 12 starts, Bieber was 8-1 with a 1.63 ERA while striking out 122 batters in 77.1 innings. From start to finish, he was nothing short of electric in 2020 and almost un-hittable at times.
Those two missed large chunks of the season due to injury and have yet to hit their stride. If they can get it going, the Yankees will have one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball.
One Key Difference
The biggest difference between Cole and Bieber in this game is playoff experience. This will be Bieber’s first playoff start, whereas Cole has 10 previous starts, going 6-4 with a 2.60 ERA. A year ago, he won four of his five postseason starts for the Astros. He can handle the moment and has a better offense to support him.
With that in mind, bet on the Yankees to beat the Indians in Game 1.