The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians meet in the AL Wild Card Series, and Game 1 features a classic pitching duel between two aces. Cleveland sends the top pitcher in the American League, Shane Bieber (8-1, 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIP), to the mound. The NY Yankees counter with their ace, Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP).

AL Wild Card Cleveland Indians New York NY Yankees Shane Bieber
Cleveland ace Shane Bieber win the pitching Triple Crown this season. (Image: Tony Dejak/AP)

This year’s 60-game season includes a postseason with eight teams from each league. The opening round of the postseason, known as the Wild Card Series, features a best-of-three series with the winner advancing to the divisional series.

Cleveland secured the #4 seed, while the Yankees snagged the #5 seed. The winner of this series will take on the winner of the #1 Tampa Bay Rays and #8 Toronto Blue Jays matchup.


AL WILD CARD SERIES
  • Game 1: NY Yankees (Cole) at Cleveland (Bieber)
  • Game 2: NY Yankees (Tanaka) at Cleveland (Carrasco)
  • Game 3: TBD

In Game 1, oddsmakers at DraftKings listed the Yankees at -110 odds to win with Cole on the mound. Bieber and Cleveland are -106 in Game 1. The Yanks must travel to Cleveland to play this round without any fans in attendance.

The Yankees are overall favorites to win this series. Circa Sports Book in Las Vegas listed the Yankees at -130 to defeat Cleveland and advance to the ALDS. Circa listed Cleveland at +110 to advance.

DraftKings listed the Yankees at +600 odds to win the World Series. The Yanks are tied for the second-best title odds (with the Tampa Bay Rays). Meanwhile, DraftKings posted Cleveland at +1500 odds to win the World Series.

Not that Bieber

No one started the season hotter than starting pitcher Shane “Don’t Call me Justin” Bieber. He set an MLB record with 27 strikeouts in his first two starts. And you know what? No one has pitched better than he has this year. He secured a pitching Triple Crown as the top hurler in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He whiffed 122 batters in just 12 total starts.

Bieber is a lock for the AL Cy Young, but he takes the mound against Cole, who is lights out in the postseason. If you like old-fashioned pitching duels, then hunker down for this potential low-scoring affair between Bieber and Cole.

Opposing batters are hitting just .167 against Bieber. He’s allowed only seven home runs all season, which doesn’t bode well for the Bronx Bombers.

Cleveland’s best hitter is third baseman Jose Ramirez. He jacked 17 home runs and 46 RBI, while slashing at .292/.386./.607.

“Jose, that’s my MVP there,” said Franmil Reyes. “The way he carried us at the end was big. Really big, big for the team.”

They have a strong infield with Cesar Hernandez, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Santana. Franmil Reyes tends to strike out more than Cleveland fans would like, but he’ll be the x-factor for Terry Francona. Someone other than Ramirez will have to drive in runs.

October in the Bronx, Voit MVP

Another tidal wave of injuries washed over the Yankees for the second season in a row. But unlike last season, the Yankees struggled to adjust to a limited roster this season. The Tampa Rays won the division while the Yanks stumbled across the finish line.

Their two biggest bats returned in the final stretch. That’s good news for fans hoping to see Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the lineup for the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Series

While the bash brothers were down, Luke Voit stepped up and filled the void as the best Bronx Bomber. Voit secured his first Home Run King title with 22 home runs. Since Voit flew under the radar outside of the NYC area, he won’t get the MVP votes he deserves because he carried the Yanks during the pandemic season.

For a hot minute, DJ LeMahieu flirted with hitting .400 to start the season. However, a thumb injury sidelined him for several weeks. He shook off the rust when he returned and competed for the batting title. LeMahieu won the AL batting race with a .364 average to become the first player in the modern era to win batting titles in both the AL and NL (2016 with the Colorado Rockies).

“Luke and DJ have been the pillars in our lineup, the rocks in our lineup, and Luke just put together an amazing season,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone. “Both guys are worthy of MVP consideration.”

The Yankees dubbed LeMahieu the “Machine” and their team MVP last season while he led the Replacement Yankees to over 100 wins.

Kraken Benched

Kyle Higashioka (.250, 4 HR, 10 RBI) will start behind the plate for the Yankees in the AL wild-card opener. The Kraken won’t appear in Game 1 after starting 27 postseason games in a row for the Yankees. Gary Sanchez struggled at the plate this year hitting just .147. Boone benched him for a bit, but that didn’t turn around his streaky woes.

“Over time, made that switch over the last several starts,” explained Boone. “Gerrit and Higgy have been on a roll. But we know that if we’re to go deep in this postseason, we’re going to need both of those guys (Higgy and Sanchez).”

With Sanchez catching his starts, Cole struggled with a 3.91 ERA. Higashioka evolved into Cole’s “personal catcher” over the last month of the season. Cole’s ERA sunk to 1.00 with Higgy behind the plate in his last four starts.

“We’re both Southern California guys,” Cole said about Higgy. “Kyle’s ability to communicate, be a really creative thinker, good pitch framer, good pitch caller.”

Kraken is expected to catch Masahiro Tanaka for the Yankees in Game 2. Boone hinted that Kraken could play later in Game 1 as a pinch hitter. if the situation presents itself.

When he’s locked in, Sanchez (10 HR, 24 RBI) is ferocious at the plate. Some of the longest blasts from the Bronx Bombers over the last few years have not come from Stanton or Judge, but rather from Sanchez.

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