As a former Yankee who spent eight of his 14 major-league seasons in the Bronx, you’d think Mark Teixeira, now an analyst for ESPN, would be almost obligated to pick New York in its upcoming AL Wild Card series. However, New York’s rocky regular season, which culminated in the Yankees losing six of their final eight contests, earned them a difficult first-round date with a stacked Indians squad featuring MVP hopeful Jose Ramirez, Cy Young frontrunner Shane Bieber and perennial All-Star Francisco Lindor, among other difference-makers. And if that wasn’t challenging enough for Aaron Boone and company, the fifth-seeded Yankees will be the visitors for all three games (if necessary) at Progressive Field with Tuesday night’s opener (first pitch is slated for 7 PM ET) pitting Bieber against Bombers ace Gerrit Cole.
Ever the realist, Teixeira resisted the temptation to pick his former club, instead choosing the Indians to advance in the American League playoffs. That may feel like a betrayal of sorts, but Teixeira’s reasoning for backing the Tribe is sound. “My Yankees friends aren’t going to like this, but I’m going to go with the Indians,” Teixeira told host Mike Greenberg Tuesday morning on ESPN’s Get Up. “The Yankees have been so inconsistent this year. They might score 10 runs in a game but get shut out the next two.”
That may seem like an exaggeration on the former first baseman’s part, but it’s not. The Yankees, pegged by many at the start of the year as favorites to represent the American League in the 2020 World Series, have balanced winning streaks of six and 10 with losing skids of seven and five this season, alternating phenomenal stretches with infuriating bouts of ineptitude.
Another reason to bet on the Indians? Their superior starting pitching, a decisive edge that Teixeira believes will swing the series in Cleveland’s favor. “When you face these Indians right-handed starters and then finish off with Brad Hand in the ninth inning, this Indians pitching staff could dominate the Yankees,” said the three-time All-Star, alluding to Cleveland’s potent starting trio of Bieber, Carlos Carrasco and Zach Plesac. “Beyond Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ starters are very suspect, so I like the Indians in this series.”
Let’s not count the Bombers out just yet. For all the Yankees’ shortcomings, their lineup does boast the MLB leader in both batting average (DJ LeMahieu) and home runs (Luke Voit). Sleeping on Game 2 starter Masahiro Tanaka, who owns a 2.13 ERA across 46 career postseason innings, would also be a mistake. The Yankees and Indians have yet to face each other in 2020, though the Tribe captured last year’s season series by a slim 4-3 margin with Cleveland winning two of its three home games against New York.