The New York Yankees kicked off the 2020 postseason with a bang, throttling the Cleveland Indians 12-2 in a game they led from the fourth pitch on.
The win gives them a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three AL Wild Card round and two chances to advance, and here are three quick takeaways from No. 1 of hopefully 13 wins:
1: The Bronx Bombers are back
Nothing like a day off to make you re-evaluate things, eh? The Yankees limped into the playoffs somewhat, losing six of their final eight and going homerless in a six-game span. They also were 11-18 on the road this season, officially, and the questions abounded. Can they win two of three on the road? Will they homer, and can they win if they don’t?
Aaron Boone and Luke Voit did their best to dispel those myths with words, and the bats did the talking Tuesday night. Aaron Judge got ‘em all to rise four pitches in, Gleyber Torres chased Shane Bieber with a two-run shot in the fifth, Brett Gardner planted his own two-run shot in the seventh, Giancarlo Stanton’s solo shot finished the parade, and all around, a lot of small-ish ball still scored enough runs to win outright.
Every Yankee except Aaron Hicks had at least one hit, but even Hicks walked and scored twice on top of a couple sparklers in center field. THIS is the offense Yankees fans had been waiting for, and in their first crack at Cleveland in 2020, the bats definitely left more of a mark than the midges.
2: Trevor Bauer may or may not have been on to something
On Sunday night, Bauer, responding to critics that he made his hay this year playing against weaker competition, Tweeted that “I count four playoff teams from the NL Central,” and when you count three from the AL Central, America’s heartland had seven of the 16 teams in the postseason.
Shane Bieber, who is almost a lock to win the AL Cy Young Award, faced that same competition, and surely, fans tried real hard to convince themselves he wasn’t as good as advertised because five of his 12 starts came against Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Kansas City, and his two worst came against playoff teams in the Twins and White Sox.
Whatever jinx you tried, it worked. Bieber gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1, which is as many as he gave up…in 38 2/3 innings over six starts in August against those five aforementioned teams plus Cincinnati. Had it been a regular-season start, his ERA would’ve gone up from 1.63 to 2.30.
The Yankees were ready for the Biebs, and it’s too late to say sorry now.
3: Gerrit Cole is already worth it
Whether it’s Kyle Higashioka, a deal with the devil, or something in between, Aaron Boone needs to do whatever it takes to keep this Gerrit Cole rolling for the next few weeks.
Cole wasn’t lockdown dominant the whole way – he did give up a bomb of a homer to Josh Naylor, who doubled his season total with it – but he was equal parts effective and efficient. He gave up a run in the third but wiggled out of a jam by striking out Carlos Santana to end the inning, and Naylor’s home run was the penultimate baserunner he allowed, as he retired 11 of the final 12 he faced.
Overall, Cole went seven innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits, with no walks and 13 strikeouts – his most as a Yankee, and second-most ever in the postseason. A lockdown performance when the Yankees needed it most, and a continuance of what he showed by allowing just three earned runs in 27 innings in September.
Game 2 is scheduled for just after 7 p.m. Wednesday, and Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound against Carlos Carrasco. Coverage begins on WFAN at 6:25 p.m. with the Pregame Program, and you can hear it live on air and on all WFAN streaming platforms.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroWFAN