After striking out 20 batters in his last two starts, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will attempt to stop the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field.
The Guardians come into this first game of a three-match series on the back of three wins out of their past four games, which have crucially come against Divisional rivals, the Minnesota Twins.
The Yankees lost for the first time in six on Thursday in a narrow 2-1 defeat to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
New York's defeat was on the back of an excellent start from pitcher Luis Severino, who was his vintage self in his sixth quality start of the season. He struck out four while allowing two runs on three hits and two walks in six innings during the defeat. The Yankees solo run came from a homer by Anthony Rizzo.
Cleveland had to thank Josh Naylor and Andres Gimenez for two back-to-back walk off wins which were vitally important as the Guardians chase Minnesota. Cleveland are now only one game back from the Twins in the American League Central Division.
New York Yankees versus Cleveland Guardians, Game one of three
Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
00.10 BST Saturday 2nd July, 2022
|How to watch:|
MLB.TV and bet365's Sports Live Streaming platform
|Odds:||NY Yankees 4/9, CLE Guardians 37/20|
New York ace Gerrit Cole will look for his seventh win of the season (6-2) as he takes to the mound at Progressive Field. The 31-year-old has a 2.99 ERA this season and despite taking a loss in his last outing against the Astros, he struck out eight, taking his season strikeouts to 111. Cole has won three of his last five starts against Cleveland.
Speaking to the official Yankees website following his last outing in a defeat against the Astros, Cole said: "It's just a tough one for the boys. I thought we played every pitch today. We played really sharp defense. We pitched pretty well for the most part.
"The cold hard truth is, we got out pitched and out played. Credit to the opponent: It was an absolute magical day for them."
The Guardians had a tough task over the past 10 days, facing the Minnesota Twins eight times in that short span. As much as it was an opportunity to gain some ground in the Division, it also carried a risk of falling into a deep hole with games dropped. After a five-game losing streak, Cleveland can be grateful it escaped this patch of games only one place behind the Twins.
After the walk-off win, centre-fielder Myles Straw said to the official Cleveland Guardians website: "Glad to take three out of five from those guys, and I don't think we played that series as well as we could.
"But to sneak three out of there is huge, to get one game up from where we were and just try to come back tomorrow night and play some good games and try to sneak up to first place."
The Yankees have already swept the Guardians 3-0 this season at Yankee Stadium. Cleveland has only won once at Progressive Field in the last 10 overall encounters between the two sides. New York won the best-of-seven meeting with Cleveland last season (4-3).
The Cleveland roster appears to be having fun and when you are winning - especially walk-off wins - they always feel sweeter. Team manager Terry Francona is delighted with his sides' resilience and described his side recently as 'fighters' as they fought back from a poor run of results.
Even when they have been struggling, the Guardians have realised that the games isn't over till the last out has been counted. Over the past 10 days, Cleveland has won four games against Minnesota in the eighth inning or later after trailing by two runs. According to ESPN stats and info, that's the most comeback wins one team has had over another in a full season since 1974 (Detroit over Cleveland) and of the 73 Guardians' games this season, 17 have been won at the final at-bat.
Just as Cleveland has hit good form, they come up against the best team in Major League Baseball at the moment. The Yankees are on course for an exceptional season with 56 wins so far, the Bronx Bombers have won more away games (22) than overall losses this season (21). The Yankees will win the series 3-0.