Note: This article has been updated to reflect Friday’s rainout and the revised matchups.
After losing the make-up game last night in Houston, the Yankees are now in Cleveland, still at the start of one of their longest road trips of the year. Next up are showdowns in Pittsburgh and Boston, but this weekend, the Yankees must contend with a Guardians team that has played better than anticipated.
The popular pick to finish third in the AL Central this year after stumbling to an 80-82 record in 2021, the Guardians have rebounded from a 7-12 start that briefly had them in fourth. They were mediocre in May but have won 20 of their last 30 games, zooming past the division favorite White Sox to now be firmly neck-and-neck with the Twins (they even held first place outright on June 22nd). Despite recently losing five in a row, they’ve recovered, with Josh Naylor and Andrés Giménez walking Minnesota off in back-to-back ballgames. They trail the Twins by just a game.
The Yankees took three from the Guardians at Yankee Stadium back in late April as part of their 11-game winning streak, outscoring them by a combined margin of 19-7. Somewhat surprisingly, it’s the Yankees’ first trip to Progressive Field since April 2021, which feels like a lifetime ago. As a fun fact, New York took three of four. Rougned Odor homered twice, including off Shane Bieber in a 2-1 win! What a time.
The vibes are high in Cleveland; it’s time for the Yankees to take them down in a notch.
DraftKings series odds: Yankees win (-185); Guardians win (+150)
Saturday (Game 1): Gerrit Cole vs. Kirk McCarty (12:10 PM ET)
The Yankees’ ace gets the ball for the first time since taking a hard-luck loss during the no-hitter last Saturday. Cole allowed just four hits and struck out eight across seven innings of work, but one of those knocks was a seventh-inning homer by J.J. Matijevic. Since Cristian Javier and company threw said no-no, that was enough for the L. Ouch. On the season though, Cole has of course been great and All-Star worthy, and he allowed one run or less in four of his five starts in June, flirting with no-hitters of his own on two occasions.
Given the extra off-day, the Guardians have bumped back the members of their rotation, so McCarty will get the surprise nod on Saturday afternoon. He made his MLB debut against the Yankees on April 24th and allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in three innings of relief during a blowout loss. He returned for the second game of a doubleheader against Texas on June 7th and didn’t fare much better. McCarty does have a 3.77 ERA in 43 innings at Triple-A this year, but he has a lot to prove at the MLB level.
Saturday (Game 2): Nestor Cortes vs. Aaron Civale (6:10 PM ET)
It was probably inevitable for Cortes to come back to earth at least a little bit after posting a 1.50 ERA in his first 10 starts, but he could really use a bounce-back outing. The Twins, Rays, and Astros have combined for 6 homers, 12 runs, and an .889 OPS off Nestor during his past four outings. He hasn’t completed six innings since June 2nd against the Angels. Fatigue might be setting in a little bit, so we’ll see how Nestor fares in Cleveland.
Backed by an effective cutter, Civale quietly put together a fine season last year with a 113 ERA+ and 1.118 WHIP, but he began 2022 in nightmare fashion. Through May 13th, he had a 9.85 ERA and .983 OPS allowed in six outings. He’s looked a little better since then, even with an IL stint due to an unsettling glute injury, but good offenses in the Twins and Red Sox touched him up for five runs in nine innings over his last couple starts.
Sunday: Jordan Montgomery vs. Triston McKenzie (1:40 PM ET)
Montgomery is not backsliding to the degree of Cortes, but after posting a 2.72 ERA and 3.54 FIP through his win against the Blue Jays on June 17th, he’s been knocked around his past couple starts. He surrendered nine hits, four runs, and two walks to the Rays on June 22nd and six hits, five runs, a walk, and a hit by pitch to the lowly A’s on June 27th. The latter was more of a “one bad inning” start, and the southpaw was fine otherwise, but there’s no erasing it from the ledger. Monty has to get back to his standard form.
Zach Plesac was originally going to make the Sunday start, but Cleveland bumped McKenzie back a day instead. Unlike Civale, the lanky McKenzie looked like he might be on the verge of a breakout through his first six games of 2022, when he had a 2.76 ERA, 2.75 FIP, and .603 OPS against with about a strikeout per inning. From mid-May on though, he’s had a 6.03 FIP with a startling 15 homers allowed in 8 starts (he’d only given up one prior to then). McKenzie had kept his ERA down, but that’s recently blown up a bit too, as in his previous two starts combined, the Twins got to him for 5 homers and 13 runs. Yuck.