2020 ALDS Preview: Yankees V. Rays

Can Gerrit Cole Start Three Division Series Games?

Gerrit Cole is a bad, bad man. Let’s get that straight lest there be any confusion. Coming off a Cy Young season, he’s already mowed his way through the first round of playoff opposition. He had a bad postseason start once … in 2015. But as good as the New York Yankees’ starter is (2.60 career postseason ERA), the question is he enough to overcome the domination of the Tampa Rays’ outfielder Randy Arozarena?

Wait. What?

Arozarena was solid in 23 games with the Mobulas this year. The fact that you don’t know who he is or that Mobula is the new way to say the genus formerly known as Manta should tell you … aw hell, I don’t know what it should tell you.

Except, perhaps, that this kid is solid, like .500 solid with a 1.000 on base plus slugging in the wild card win over the Toronto Blue Jays. And there’s a lot more guys like him who put up numbers and get squat for recognition, like Yandy Diaz, who hit .309 this year and has 30-homer power. And then there’s Mike Brosseau, Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle. They strike out a lot, but they get a lot of hits when they make contact.

Willy Adames has power, but he might be the guy who gets put in a lot of high-stress situations. He was on pace to strike out more than 200 times had this been a 162-game season.

For the Yankees, they have a starting pitching problem. They have Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ, both with ERAs around 3.50. Tanaka gave up six runs in four innings in his wild card start against the Indians. You can’t expect him to get hit that hard again, can you? Zach Britton was perfect on save opportunities, but Aroldis Chapman was not perfect. He’s lost four mph off the fastball.

The question will be can Tampa get to the rest to the bullpen first? Nearly half of the pitchers in pinstripes this year gave up more than a run every two innings. Don’t be surprised if Chapman tries to drill one of the Rays if he comes in in a mop-up situation. He’s just Kentucky-fried stupid enough to do it.

Offensively of course, New York’s DJ LeMahieu looks like a right-handed Tony Gwynn with his ability to hit the ball the opposite way. He’ll be followed by Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. That’s a hell of a lineup. The other guys aren’t bad either and they make better contact than the Rays. New York had 128 fewer strikeouts during the year. On the flip side, the Yankees staff gave up 52 more runs in a 60-game season and they led the league in errors.

For Tampa, Blake Snell, Ryan Yarbrough, and Josh Fleming have the skills to get it done and the bullpen is deep enough. If the Rays can keep that group from getting hits in bunches, and can breaking ball Gary Sanchez and Brett Gardner to death, they have a great chance to win.

Cole wins two. Tampa wins three.

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