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5 things to watch as Yankees face Guardians in three-game series in Cleveland

In Sports
April 12, 2024

Here are five things to watch as the Yankees and Cleveland Guardians play a three-game series at Progressive Field starting on Friday…

Big test for both teams

The Yankees faced some tough teams in the early part of the season, but they are arguably going up against their toughest test yet in the Cleveland Guardians.

Entering play Friday, the Guardians are second in MLB in run differential (+35). The best run-differential team is the Royals (+39) — helped by back-to-back shellackings of the Houston Astros.

But what that shows is how well Cleveland is hitting and pitching. Three of their regulars are hitting over .300, including Steven Kwan‘s .386 average (second in MLB). While not one player is topping many of the league’s offensive leaders, it’s their complete and consistent hitting up and down the lineup that has helped them get off to a 9-3 start.

It also helps that they played seven games against the Oakland A‘s and Chicago White Sox, going 5-2 in that span. Their other four wins have come against the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins.

So as much as Cleveland is a test for the Yankees, this weekend is also a big test for the Guardians and whether they can be legit competitors this season.

Can Nestor Cortes keep it going?

Cortes had his best start of the season when he pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out six against the Miami Marlins on Monday.

Was that a product of how bad the Marlins are, or is this the start of Cortes returning to All-Star form?

Prior to Monday’s start, the 29-year-old gave up seven runs (six in the first inning) so the game against Miami was just what Cortes needed. He’ll take the mound in the series finale on Sunday, and his performance against a much tougher opponent will give us a better idea of which way he’s leaning.

Is it time to worry about Aaron Judge?

The short answer is no.

However, that doesn’t mean we should not keep an eye on Judge’s production at the plate. Everything is magnified in New York, especially when the former AL MVP doesn’t come through in the clutch moments — like he failed to do in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game. But it does go a little deeper than that.

Against the lowly Marlins, Judge went 1-for-9, with the one hit being a double. He did walk four times, so he’s still getting on base at a great clip, but it’s alarming that the career .280 hitter is batting .178 after 13 games — the lowest average after 13 games in his career. He’s already grounded into four double plays after doing so just five times a year ago.

It may not get better this weekend. In 17 career games (16 starts), Judge is just 11-for-71 (.193) with just one home run and three RBI at Progressive Field.

Giancarlo Stanton is on fire

Another reason fans shouldn’t worry about Judge is the production from others in the lineup, especially Stanton.

The slugging right-hander continues to produce. After starting the season 3-for-24, the slugger is 8-for-19 (.421) with three home runs and seven RBI over his last five games. That could also continue this weekend in Progressive Field.

In 15 starts, Stanton is 15-for-61 (.259) with four home runs and six RBI in Cleveland.

This could be a weekend where Stanton gets a day off to allow Judge to DH — and potentially get his timing right — but the slugger should have plenty of opportunities to stay hot.

Anthony Volpe and the leadoff spot

Manager Aaron Boone shook up the lineup a bit on Wednesday when he dropped Gleyber Torres down to the No. 6 spot and put Volpe at leadoff. Now, Boone said that it had more to do with allowing Torres to reset since he felt his infielder was pressing, but Volpe has been an on-base machine to start the season.

While the Yanks lost Wednesday’s game, Volpe went 1-for-3 with two walks in the leadoff spot while Torres was hitless (0-for-2) but did walk twice. It’ll be interesting to see if Boone keeps the same lineup or if he’ll shake it up again. But with the way Volpe is hitting and getting on base (.342 average, .460 OBP) it may be difficult to take the leadoff spot away from the second-year shortstop.

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