Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton each hit home runs, and Gerrit Cole struck out 13 batters in seven innings as the New York Yankees defeated the Cleveland Indians 12-3 in Game 1 of their American League Wild Card series on Tuesday in Cleveland's Progressive Field.
Presumptive AL Cy Young Award winner and Cleveland ace Shane Bieber allowed seven earned runs, nine hits and two walks in 4.2 innings. His night ended after Torres' two-run homer gave New York a 7-2 lead in the top of the fifth.
Josh Naylor paced Cleveland's offense by going 4-for-4 with a home run, a pair of doubles, a single and two runs.
The Yanks took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three matchup.
New York P Gerrit Cole: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 13 K, 0 BB
New York SS Gleyber Torres: 4-for-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI
New York OF Brett Gardner: 3-for-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI
Cleveland P Shane Bieber: 4.2 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 7 K, 2 BB
Cleveland OF Josh Naylor: 4-for-4, HR, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI
Cleveland 3B Jose Ramirez: 1-for-3, 2B, RBI, BB
Poor Bieber Performance Puts Cleveland's Season on Brink
Bieber earned the rare pitching Triple Crown this year thanks to eight wins, a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts. He won MLB's ERA and strikeout titles among starters and co-led the league in victories with the Chicago Cubs' Yu Darvish.
A pitcher's duel between him and Cole, the Yanks ace and 2019 MLB strikeout leader, was expected. That never happened, however, as nothing went right for Bieber on an evening where he couldn't set the Yanks down in order once.
Numerous stats showcased how much of an anomaly this night was for Bieber.
In addition, Bieber went 3-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 22 innings at home this season. He allowed no home runs, only 15 hits and walked eight.
As for why Bieber struggled, the Yankees had a great approach at the plate, specifically against breaking balls.
But they crushed Bieber's fastball as well:
Jordan Lazowski @jlazowski14
Shane Bieber had a .210 BA (.222 xBA) and .310 SLG (.377 SLG) off his fastball in 2020. Hitters whiffed at it nearly 26% of the time. Tonight, NYY put 6 fastballs in play: 1 F6, 2 1B, 1 2B, and 2 HR. They whiffed at it just once. He threw 31 of them. Baseball makes no sense.
Bieber was excellent for the entire regular season, but there's little room for error in the playoffs, especially in the new best-of-three series format.
Now Cleveland's back is against the wall as the team is forced to win two straight against a team whose explosive offense proved problematic for Tribe pitchers.
Yankees' Offense Breaks Out
The Yankees stumbled to the finish line in the regular season, losing six of their final eight games. They scored 23 combined runs in their wins but posted an average of two runs per contest in their six losses.
That performance didn't exactly inspire confidence leading into a matchup with baseball's best pitcher in Bieber, but the Yankees lineup showed just how dangerous it is at its best by smashing the ball throughout Progressive Field all night.
Judge set the tone with an opposite-field two-run bomb:
Two innings later, MLB home run leader Luke Voit smacked an RBI double to score center fielder Aaron Hicks.
Then Gardner, who hit just .223 this season, added an opposite-field extra-base hit of his own:
The veteran was the second in a line of four straight batters to reach base against Bieber in the fourth inning. DJ LeMahieu capped the two-run frame with an infield single to score Gardner and put New York up 5-1.
Cleveland got one back on a Naylor home run, giving the Tribe some life. However, Torres effectively put the game out of reach with a two-run bomb that ended Bieber's rough night:
The Yanks kept it going in the seventh with four more runs, including a Gio Urshela sacrifice fly, a Torres RBI single, a two-run Gardner bomb and a Stanton laser beam:
If the Yankees hit like this, then they'll be near-impossible to beat throughout the postseason. However, they've been inconsistent all year.
The Yanks started 9-2 before losing four of five, but they bounced back with six straight wins.
Then New York lost seven straight and won four of five before losing seven of eight.
A 10-game win streak followed before the 2-6 ending, resulting in a 33-27 finish.
The postseason format doesn't leave room for prolonged cold stretches, with a best-of-three wild-card series, a best-of-five division series and best-of-seven championship series and World Series.
But if the Yanks run hot like they did Tuesday, then they should coast through October.
New York and Cleveland will play Game 2 on Wednesday at 7:08 p.m. ET in Cleveland. ESPN will televise the game.
If New York wins, then the series-deciding Game 3 will occur Thursday at a to-be-determined time.
The series winner will face either the No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays or No. 8 Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Division Series, which will take place in San Diego's Petco Park.
Tampa Bay leads its AL Wild Card Series with Toronto 1-0 after a 3-1 victory on Tuesday.