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ALDS Game 1 Reactions: Rizzo bomb and sturdy ‘pen provides smooth game

The Yankees took Game 1 over the Guardians 4-1, in a reassuringly normal fashion.

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On one of the best days of the baseball calendar, the first day of the divisional round, the Yankees did exactly what they’re supposed to do against the Guardians. The lineup hit a few big homers, and played (mostly) solid defense. Meanwhile their ace contributed a solid start, and the bullpen finished the job behind him in reassuring fashion. It was a fairly run-of-the-mill game, and I think that’s a good thing tonight, and looking forward as well.

The Yankees’ day started with the ALDS roster being announced, most of which was largely unsurprising. Of note, however, was the absence of Oswald Peraza. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was always going to be the shortstop judging by how they used Peraza in the regular season, but Peraza’s total absence with the presence of Marwin Gonzalez is a bit disappointing. And Kiner-Falefa’s usual issues became glaring early on, his first inning botched ground ball and rally-killing GIDP in the bottom of the second made the roster decisions even more questionable. Luckily, however, these mishaps did not effect the outcome of the game ultimately, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.

In the theme of obvious issues showing their face, Gerrit Cole did give up another home run on a middle-middle fastball. Of all people, it was Steven Kwan who hit it into the right field seats as well.

Cole was able to rebound after that however, finishing with 6.1 innings, one earned run, and eight strikeouts. Nothing ground-breaking, but that is a very solid start, especially considering he got out of the concerning third inning and was able to make a mid-game adjustment focusing on his excellent breaking balls.

The non-Judge parts of this lineup carried the weight for Game 1, with a game-tying solo homer from Harrison Bader in the third and a two-run moonshot from Anthony Rizzo in the sixth inning. This is a really encouraging thing to see from the Yankees — when they were at their worst, their lineup contributions started and ended with Aaron Judge. With Anthony Rizzo seemingly in good health, and contributions from the bottom of the lineup as well, this looks like a dangerous team again.

Anthony Rizzo has been that second guy in this lineup when he’s been on the field, and that presence loomed large tonight. Not to mention that Giancarlo Stanton looks to be on the verge of breaking out. He appears more locked in, and more physically sturdy than he did during his slump, in which he had far too much movement in his lower half as he was recovering from an injury.

Perhaps the thing that stood out the most from Game 1, and was the most reassuring, was the normalcy of this game. 4-1 is a pretty straightforward, seemingly stress-free kind of score. Cole made some adjustments and turned in a solid start, followed by an equally solid performance from the bullpen. Jonathan Loáisiga gave up a couple of inconsequential hits and finished the seventh for Cole. Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes then wrapped up the final two frames with relative ease. Comfortability using Peralta, particularly in the eighth/ninth inning of a close game, is something I’m happy to see too, as he has been a quiet stud for this bullpen all year.

As mentioned, there was a comforting normalcy about this game, lacking much blood-pressure-raising drama. There were some mistakes to account for (I am openly looking at you, Josh Donaldson), but again, nothing that ended up altering the course of the game. The pitching was solid all the way through, and there were contributions around the lineup (notably outside of Aaron Judge). This is about as good a game as you could ask for, disaster avoidance is just as important as putting up huge numbers in the box score.

The Yankees head into Thursday’s Game 2 matchup facing Cleveland’s best, but have Nestor Cortes, arguably their best this year going for them. And they’ll be on the heels of a reassuringly normal win in Game 1, with some encouraging signs to look forward to along with it.