Major League Baseball helped out its television partners by taking the unusual step of scheduling an off-day between Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series.
Its reward will be a 1 p.m. start for Game 2 of the Yankees/Guardians ALDS on Friday as Thursday’s game was rained out.
Wednesday was sunny and dry for a workout neither team neither needed nor desired.
The clubs will fly to Cleveland after Friday's game, with Game 3 scheduled for Saturday night. Should Games 4 and 5 be necessary, they would be played consecutively – in Cleveland Sunday and then back at Yankee Stadium Monday night.
Traditionally in a Division Series there is an off day scheduled between Games 2 and 3 and between 4 and 5, not the case in this 2022 season, whose playoff schedule was condensed because of the lockout instituted by MLB that caused the start of the regular season to be delayed.
Nestor Cortes and Shane Bieber remain in line to start for their respective teams for Game 2 and Luis Severino will square off against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie in Game 3. Gerrit Cole, terrific in Game 1, will still be able to take the mound on regular rest for a Game 4, likely against Cal Quantrill, the losing pitcher in the opener, a 4-1 Yankees victory.
Should there be a fifth game, the Yankees all but certainly would give the nod to Jameson Taillon, who made the club’s 26-man ALDS roster as a bullpen option (without the rainout, the Yankees probably would have brought back Cortes on short rest for a fifth game).
Cleveland, meanwhile, would not be able to start either one of their top arms – Bieber and McKenzie – in a Game 5 scenario and would either go with the underwhelming Zach Plesac (3-12, 4.31 ERA) or the even more underwhelming Aaron Civale (5-6, 4.92). Or they could go the bullpen game route, which wouldn’t necessarily be a disadvantage as the Guardians, at least on paper and based on performance down the stretch, have a deeper pool of relievers at their disposal than the Yankees do. Taillon had a mostly solid season, going 14-5, 3.91, matching his career-high of 32 starts and throwing 177 1/3 innings, the second most in his career behind the 191 innings he threw in 2018.
“I’ve looked at the schedule a little bit, I know that’s definitely a possibility,” Taillon said earlier in the week when the forecast suggested Game 2 might get postponed, bringing him into the fold as a potential Game 5 starter. “But for today, I’m a reliever and that’s all I can focus on.”
Aaron Boone said early last week in Arlington, Texas, where his club finished up the regular season, his plan for the Division Series was a three-man rotation.
“I think with J-Mo [Taillon], you could see him in some different roles where it could be length, could be a big inning in a [high-leverage] lane,” Boone said before the Yankees’ victory in the series opener Tuesday. “We’ve got weather coming possibly Thursday that may alter things. So you just don’t know.”
Though there was plenty of criticism emanating from both organizations for the odd scheduling – all of it relating to the off day coming between Games 1 and 2 and no off day scheduled between 4 and 5 – none of it, for obvious reasons, was done so publicly.
Neither manager, predictably, made much of an issue of it.
“I think we played 27 in a row during the year,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday. “It's still baseball. We'll be OK. Our game is a game of adjustments. If we can't handle [that] …we'll be fine.”
Also speaking Wednesday, Boone said a rainout “would probably affect the pitching rotation if you went five games and you had to play four in a row,” but otherwise reflected Francona’s perspective.
“That's what you do in baseball is you play every day,” Boone said. “Shouldn't affect that [the lineup]. Pitching, it could change a little bit of what you do.”