After four days of probing about the bad blood between the Yankees and Rays, the ALDS gets underway Monday night in San Diego’s Petco Park, where every game will be played.
Game 1 of the best-of-five affair pits Gerrit Cole, the Yankees’ right-handed ace, against lefty Blake Snell. The Rays will go with Tyler Glasnow in Game 2 and the Yankees haven’t decided on his mound opponent.
While players in each dugout have preached the focus is on winning and advancing to the ALCS, the Yankees’ belief that the Rays pitchers throw up and in too much is real as is the Rays being agitated over Aroldis Chapman buzzing Mike Brosseau’s head with a triple-digit fastball on Sept. 1 at Yankee Stadium.
Aaron Judge has enough postseason experience to understand even a normal regular season of 162 games is a dress rehearsal for October. And this year with 16 teams getting in that mindset that is even more true.
“Even the regular season is like spring training. The real season is the playoffs,’’ said Judge, whose team dropped six of its final eight games during the regular season but erased that stain by beating the Indians in the wild-card round. “You want to see a team show up. The team that shows up in the postseason is the team we are going to see. We kind of showed that in the first two games in Cleveland. We were able to put up runs and had guys hitting in big situations, guys move runners over and hit sac flies to get runners in. That is the type of Yankee team you are going to see.’’
Yet, it won’t be without intensity. And each side hasn’t fully deleted the bad blood.
“Certainly, especially in the postseason,’’ Cole answered when asked if the intensity level rises in the wake of the ill feelings each team has toward the other. “There is already a baseline of tension there as we approach any game at this time of the year, and with the history there will be some people playing on edge.’’
For what it is worth, the Rays held a huge regular-season edge over their AL East rival by winning eight of the 10 games, which helped them win the division.
Each team required just two wins to advance out of their respective AL wild-card series last week. The Yankees beat the Indians and the Rays topped the Blue Jays.
When the Rays and Yankees saw each other last (Aug. 31-Sept. 2) the Rays took two of three at Yankee Stadium. It was in the middle game that Brosseau took exception to Chapman’s pitch. More importantly from the Yankees’ view was they were without Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Now, after the sluggers delivered against the Indians, Judge is confident.
“When we got a full lineup and everyone is healthy we got something special here in New York,’’ said Judge, whose two-run homer on Shane Bieber’s fourth pitch of Game 1 was a clear message that his power had returned after not homering in 36 at-bats after coming off the injured list. “That’s why we are excited going into this postseason having everybody healthy. I know we are still missing a couple of pitchers, but having this lineup, top-to-bottom healthy, guys who can get on base, guys who can hit homers. One through nine it is a scary lineup we got.’’
As for losing six of eight to the Rays, Luke Voit believes the script is going to be flipped.
“Because we are a lot healthier and these games are a lot more meaningful,’’ said Voit, who led the majors with 22 homers despite playing the last several weeks on a hobbled foot. “They have good pitching and found ways to score runs against us. You have to give them credit. We are a lot different team than when we faced them in the regular season. I feel good about us, we got a really tough lineup and I think we are going to do a lot of damage against them.’’
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