Postseason baseball is, simply put, madness. A sport with such a long regular season, deciding its champion in the span of roughly a month with a few short series, it leaves room for a lot of unpredictability.
Through the first few games of the LDS, and going back to the previous round, the playoffs in 2022 have been defined by close battles, in almost every single affair, and series. The Yankees are tied with the Guardians at 1-1 through the opening two in Yankee Stadium, and because of the postponement on Thursday to Game 2, these two division winners will square off for basically a mini-tournament with three games in as many days, with the first two in Cleveland, and a potential game 5 in Yankee Stadium.
With every postseason exit will come moments to look back and second guess. There will always be areas in which a team could’ve fared better, could’ve executed better, and those and will be discussed. But before the end of this round, it is worth that highlighting the current state of this year’s postseason.
A Balanced LDS Round
All four LDS’s entered play with a clear favorite. Unlike last year, when three lower seeds advanced in this round (Rays lost to the Red Sox, Giants lost to the Dodgers & Brewers lost to the Braves), this year, the only team with a single-digit win gap to their opponent is the Cleveland Guardians, whose 92 wins trail the Yankees’ 99 by seven, though even that gap was bigger for most of the regular season.
The top seeds in every series were the favorites. But reality always shakes things up. The Yankees, Braves, and Dodgers all looked like good bets to best their inferior opponents, but each has had to fight through incredibly balanced series so far. Three of the four Divisional Series split the first two at the top seed’s home ballpark, and even the Astros, who carry a 2-0 lead to Seattle, had to battle through two of the most thrilling games of these playoffs just to get there.
The Mariners led by 6-4 in Game 1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and lost on a walk-off home run by Yordan Alvarez. The script was pretty close to the same in Game 2, when after leading by the score of 2-1, the M’s stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, and saw a familiar nemesis once again. Alvarez blasted a two-run shot to left field off Mariners’ ace Luis Castillo to take the lead, before closing out a 4-2 win later on.
Elsewhere, the Dodgers dominated the Padres in the regular season, but in Dodgers Stadium, the score was mirrored with 5-3 results in the first two games of the NLDS one going for each team’s way, with LA taking Game 1 and the Padres winning Game 2. When LA jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first game, it looked as though they might run away with things, but even this juggernaut of a squad has run into some trouble.
The Atlanta Braves will send out veteran Charlie Morton with their backs against the wall, trailing the Phillies 2-1 in a series that few saw going Philadelphia’s way. The Phillies are in control, with a chance to close the series out on home turf, and with Zack Wheeler looming for a potential Game 5 if things get that far.
The Yankees’ adversity isn’t an outlier
Bringing things back to the Yankees, how things are going around the playoffs demonstrates that what the Yankees are going through is pretty par for the course. There are plenty of things to be concerned about with the team; it’s just that all the league’s top teams are facing similar situations. Aaron Judge being completely shut down through two games is a concern, the offense crumbling at the end of Game 2, these are things the Yankees need to fix going forward. However, it must be acknowledged that all favorites are struggling, and the Yanks arguably face the toughest challenge.
The Guardians are able to throw top-tier pitching at opponents, whether it’s Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie in the rotation, or Emmanuel Clase, Trevor Stephan, and James Karinchak in the bullpen. Such an imposing group of top pitchers can and were always going to create problems, at least to a certain extent, for the Yankee offense.
The Yankees still have a clear path to a series win, if they can get Judge going, and/or if Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole pitch to their billing over the next two games. It won’t be easy, though, if they manage to make it through to LCS round, as all the top seeds across the league are finding out.