New York Yankees postseason preview: Cole to face Snell in first game of the 2020 postseason ALDS

Tonight will be an epic game in New York Yankees history. In a heated season between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays, they will meet up in a must see match between two aces, the New York Yankees Gerrit Cole and the Tampa Bay Rays Blake Snell, in game one of the American League Divisional Series at Petco Park in San Diego, California.

Tonight the two teams will leave the hotel resort they both share in Carlsbad, California, and take the field in San Diego, and take part in the first game of five games to determine who will go on to compete in the American League Championship Series and have a chance to go on to the World Series of baseball. The other game played today will be played by the Houston Astros and the Oakland Athletics.

Major League Baseball’s 2020 playoffs are headed to the divisional round after eight teams were eliminated in the Wild Card Series. The 16-team playoff field was cut in half in the best-of-three Wild Card Series with six teams needing just two games to advance. The Yankees will face the Rays, and the Astros will take on the Athletics in the pair of ALDS matchups. The Astro’s first game of the series will have been completed at Dodger Stadium when the Yankees take the field. On the National League side of the bracket, the top-seeded Dodgers will play the Padres at  Arlington on Tuesday. The Marlins go up against the Braves on Monday in Houston.

During the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays bested the Yankees 8 games to 2.  But this is a very different team than the Rays took on during the regular season.  It’s a team that is now mostly healthy, powerful, and ready to take on the postseason. DJ LeMahieu, the baseball batting champion, Luke Voit, the baseball home run leader, and both Giancarlo Stanton and slugger Aaron Judge all missed games in those matchups.

“We’re a lot healthier, these games are a lot more meaningful,” said Voit. “They have good pitching and they figured out ways to score runs against us, you gotta give them credit, but I think we’re a lot different team than when we faced them during the regular season, and I feel good about us. We got a really tough lineup, and I think we’re gonna do a lot of damage against them.”

Aaron Judge said previous to the game that he is looking forward to facing the Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell in the first game of the five-game series.

“Blake Snell’s an incredible pitcher…He’s the ace of that staff, great competitor…You love competing against guys like that,” he said. “He’s gonna go out there and lay it on the line, give it his all every single outing, and he’s gonna have fun doping it. Same with me, I’ma go out there and do my best, lay it all on the line, and we’re gonna have some fun.”

“They just got a lot of good arms down there. A lot of good guys that can get it upper 90s, got good breaking pitches that they throw in the zone…You really can’t sell out to their fastball or sell out on the breaking ball. They can throw either pitch in the zone at any time, so that makes it tough at times,” Judge said.

The game will be played at Petco Park in San Diego; Petco is an open stadium in downtown San Diego, California; it’s the home of the San Diego Padres of the National League. The weather for the game will not be a factor; as the 8:07 pm EDT, first pitch time will feature clear skies and a temperature in the upper ’70s.  There will be no chance of rain and just a light breeze from the north. The game will be televised nationally on the TBS Network with pre and post-game coverage on the YES Network.

In 2008, after years of ignoring the expansion of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the Rays won their first division Championship over the New York Yankees, and the Rays became rivals. As the years progressed, the rivalry increased, as did the tension when the teams played together. Both teams resented each other for aggressive play. They were often accusing each other of purposely hitting each other’s hitters and sliding into bases too hard. All of this caused increased chirping from both dugouts.  The tensions between the teams reached its highest point on September 27, 2018. After a back-and-forth of hitting batters, when CC Sabathia was ejected for throwing at Jesus Sucre. Sabathia was furious and let the Rays’ dugout know it by yelling directly at them.

The back and forth chirping continued in 2019. In 2020 the Rays bested the Yankees for the Division win. Also, the Rays won 8 of the ten times the team faced each other in the shortened season. The teams met more drama on September 1, when New York Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman nearly hit Mike Brosseau in the head. Both teams burst out of the dugouts, although there were no punches thrown, both teams shouted at each other on the field. Both managers and Chapman were thrown out of the game. It should be mentioned that both teams have hit batters earlier in the series, and the Yankees were tired of the Rays pitchers throwing up and in to their batters.

The entire incident boiled over when, after the game, the Rays manager overreacted by claiming the Chapman ball was on purpose and could have killed his player.

“Somebody’s got to be accountable. And the last thing I’ll say on it is, I got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour. Period.”

The threat was made real when the team had t-shirts made, emblazoned with the phrase. And now these two teams will play a five-game series to determine who will go on to the American League Championship series, and they will do it while living together at the same resort.  The last time these teams faced off was on Sept. 2 at Yankee Stadium, while the ALDS will be played at a neutral-site at Petco Park in San Diego, preventing any home-field advantage for either team. Ahead of workouts, the Rays Kevin Keirmaier didn’t mince his words.

“They don’t like us, we don’t like them, and it’s going to continue to stay that way,’

The New York Yankees Brett Gardner stated that the feeling is mutual, but we are concentrating on winning the Divisional series. With the tensions between these teams, and the stakes so high, one has to wonder what will happen in the series if a batter gets unintentionally hit by an opposing pitcher. You have to remember that Rays manager Kevin Cash all but promised to get back at the Yankees. For fans of both teams, the series will be must-watch tv.

The Yankees will start their ace, Gerrit Cole. Cole is a postseason veteran, pitching in eight postseason games, with a 7-4 record and an ERA of 2.60. His regular-season record was 7-3 with an ERA of 2.84.  He tossed the first game of the Wild Card Series against the Cleveland Indians and went seven strong innings, giving up two runs, walking no one, and racking up 13 strikeouts, while throwing 105 pitches. The 13 strikeouts without a walk pair him with Tom Seaver (1973) as the only pitchers to accomplish the feat.  Cole, in his last 34 innings while paired with battery mate Kyle Higashioka has pitched to an ERA of just 1.32. Cole is 0-1 against the Rays this year. That loss came when the Yankee lineup was struggling.

Cole will need to go deep into the game, using just one or two relievers so that the Yankees will have a fresh bullpen for Masahiro Tanaka’s start on Tuesday.  Ideally, the Yankees powerful lineup will burst out early against Snell, limiting Cole’s pitch count, as if the series goes to five games, it will allow Cole to start that game on short rest.

The Tampa Bay Rays will start Blake Snell. Snell was 4-2 in the regular season with an ERA of 3.24 in 11 starts.  Snell seldom goes more than five innings and records just over one strikeout per inning. Should Snell not go deep into the game today, the Rays can count on their strong bullpen to back him up. Snell is the first Ray’s pitcher to pitch five no-hit innings in a postseason game. Snell is going to have to find a way to shut down the batting title, DJ LeMahieu.  LeMahieu hits very well off of Snell. He batted .429 against snell in 14 at-bats.

Snell is a really good pitcher, but pitches differently to the New York Yankees than any other team.  He doesn’t use his slider, instead concentrates on his high four-seam fastball.  This means tonight you will not see many down and in pitches; he will hope the Yankees go out of the zone on outside pitches and miss his high fastball. Snell is a conventional pitcher that pitches pretty much by the textbook.  The Yankees can take advantage of this, knowing that a high fastball will greet the in their first at-bat.

The bottom line tonight is that Cole is going to pitch like Cole can pitch, and, at the same time, avoid giving up the long ball.  The Yankees are going to have to have their lineup alive and string hits together and hope the power hitters can rack up some RBI’s with a few long balls. The Yankees have had a problem this year, leaving men on base; they are going to have to avoid that throughout the series if they wish to get to the ALCS.