Cash in early- The top of the Yankee lineup is incredible at getting on base. DJ, Hicks and Judge all have elite OBPs over the years. Most of the time, the Yankees will get multiple runners on base in the first inning. When the Yankees can get a run across in the first, it seems as if they relax and end up scoring 8+ runs. If they come up empty in the first, they start to press and usually end up scoring 3-4 runs and losing. Anyone who has watched this year knows that it’s a completely different game when they score in the first inning. If the Yankees get multiple runners on in the first, they absolutely cannot come up empty.
The strike zone- The Yankees take more pitches than any team in the majors. Their whole mantra is based around laying off borderline pitches and hammering mistakes. The problem with this strategy is that when they go up against a large strike zone, they are screwed. If the umpires are calling borderline pitches at the knees, this weakens the Yankee offense significantly. However, if the umpire is calling those pitches for balls, the Yankees will rake. I would even go as far as to say that the strike zone itself will be a bigger factor than the opposing pitchers they are facing.
Infield defense- The Yankee infield defense is extremely volatile. Gio and DJ are all-world infielders, and Torres and Voit are both awful. The Yankees absolutely cannot afford bonehead errors from Gleyber or Voit during a three game series, especially in game one against Bieber. These two need to make all of the routine plays, at a bare minimum. It doesn’t appear that the Yankees are totally sold on Torres staying at short, so this is obviously a huge series for him.
Opposing big guns- The Indians offense is extremely top-heavy. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are absolute monsters, and they kill the Yankees to boot. Who can forget Lindor’s grand slam off Chad Green in the 2017 ALDS? The Yankees absolutely have to contain these two. I’m totally fine walking them in almost any spot. Make the weaker hitters beat you, and do NOT issue walks to batters batting before these guys. The Indians lineup isn’t deep.
Game 1- this is obviously the biggest game of the series. Think about how you’ll be feeling in regards to each outcome. Win, and we have the confidence that we can beat any pitcher in this playoff. We’re all celebrating Cole, we’re relaxed, and we’re ready to drop the hammer with Tanaka tomorrow. Lose? Oh boy. Cole is done for the series and we’re clinging to our playoff lives, hoping the good Tanaka shows up and the bats wake up. It’s tough to envision a scenario where the winner of game one doesn’t take the series. The Yankees absolutely need to take game one.