If you’re a fan of pitching duels, then you absolutely have to watch Game 1 between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
The truncated MLB regular-season has reached its conclusion, and now, the league moves onto the playoffs. This year will be like no other, as 16 teams will make up the postseason field, where one team will emerge as the winners of the 2020 World Series.
There are plenty of great matchups in the Wild Card Round, but none will be more competitive than the series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians. In fact, this series will have one of the most anticipated pitching duels in recent memory kicking off Game 1.
Gerrit Cole vs. Shane Bieber.
A battle of two Cy Young contenders
The Yankees signed Cole to his record-breaking $324 million contract this past winter for situations just like this. He certainly earned his pay not only for his work last regular-season with the Houston Astros, but for how he pitched during their run to the World Series. In five games (36.2 innings pitched), Cole struck out 47 batters and walked 11, while recording a stellar 1.72 ERA and a 4-1 win-loss record.
Cole does have an advantage entering Game 1 on Tuesday evening, as Cleveland’s lineup has mustered a .228 team batting average (23rd in league) and recorded 234 RBI (27th). This season, Cole recorded a 2.84 ERA and 0.959 WHIP through 12 starts. Perhaps Cole’s main deterrent this year has been his propensity to give up the long ball, as he allowed the second-most in the league (14). However, the Indians only hit 59 homers through 60 games, which is tied for the third-fewest in the league. Cole should be licking his chops at this matchup, but he’ll need the Yankee bats to record some hits and knock in some runs.
The Yankees have accumulated a .247 batting average (14th in MLB) and .789 OPS (fifth), but their bats have gotten cold at points this season. That can be attributed to the injuries to the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gleyber Torres midway through the campaign. Even so, they can’t afford to do that against Bieber.
Bieber only played three MLB seasons, and this year was his best yet. The Indians ace started 12 games this season, and led the league with eight wins, a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts over 77.1 innings. Bieber also leads in strikeouts per nine innings (14.2) and hits per nine innings (5.4). It’s a foregone conclusion that Bieber should easily win the AL Cy Young, but he can greatly help his case by silencing the Bronx Bombers in their three-game set.
You simply can’t expect a ton of hits to be recorded or runs to be scored in Game 1. All you need to do is just sit back and enjoy a pithing clinic between two of the best arms in the game today.