The Guardians begin the month of July with a rainy rest day.
After 11 games in just 10 days, Cleveland gets a full day off — no road trips, no buses, no random hotels in far-away cities.
And the rest is much needed, considering who Cleveland welcomes into town next: the New York Yankees.
And while a day off is nice, Friday’s postponed game will be made up as the first part of a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Yankees are far and away the best team in baseball so far this season; the Bronx Bombers come to Cleveland with a 56-21 record, some 13 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
1. Pitch Perfect
The pitching matchup on Saturday is one that both the Yankees and Guardians would call “a best case scenario.”
It’s both teams’ no. 1 and no. 2 options against each other.
Cole (2.99 ERA) and Cortes (2.51 ERA) are pitching like two of the best in baseball this season.
Each is also a big reason why the Yankees are on their way to the top seed in the playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum, Bieber (3.16 ERA) has been Cleveland’s best starter of the season.
McKenzie (4.03) is coming off a dismal June and looking to regain his form.
If McKenzie keeps the Guardians in Saturday’s game, it could go a long way towards proving that he’ll be a reliable arm down the stretch.
It would also give McKenzie significant confidence after he was rocked for 13 runs over his last two starts.
2. Can José Find His Way?
June was a tale of two halves for José Ramirez.
Over the first three weeks, the Guardians star hit .309, with 11 RBIs and 21 hits.
But the last week of June saw Ramirez scuffle, to his standards.
He batted just .257, with a single RBI and five strikeouts.
In 56 ABs out of the leadoff spot, Kwan is slashing .339/.424/.411/.835 OPS
In 96 ABs in the 2 hole, Kwan is slashing .260/.374/.365/.739 OPS
Even when Straw is right, Kwan needs to be our leadoff hitter. He looks so comfortable there. #Fortheland
— 216 Baseball Podcast (@216BaseballPod) July 1, 2022
Can Ramirez regain some momentum against the Yankees?
A big series against the Yankees would not only cement his status as one of the league’s best players but catapult him to the top of the MVP conversation.
This series will also be a major deciding factor in whether the Guardians are buyers, sellers, or neither at the trade deadline.
That’s the case for two reasons.
First, as mentioned, the Yankees are the best team in baseball.
If Cleveland matches up well and holds its own (and by “holds its own,” I mainly mean “doesn’t get completely embarrassed/annihilated/run off the field), then it could be a good sign for a potential playoff matchup.
Which in turn, could go a long way towards convincing the front office to be buyers at the trade deadline.
Down a run in extra innings with two outs and two strikes…. Josh Naylor… pic.twitter.com/E06lc4IwcL
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) June 30, 2022
If Cleveland folds, does the front office decide 2022 isn’t the season, keep the cards close, and look towards next year as “THE” year?
Far more likely.
Here’s reason number two: the schedule.
Between July 1 and July 24, the Guardians play the Yankees, Tigers, Royals, and White Sox.
Only four teams across 22 games.
The Guardians have a far greater sample size against each of the Royals, Tigers, and White Sox, who are division rivals.
By the time Cleveland heads to Boston at the end of July, the Guardians should be certain of what their future moves (or lack thereof) are.