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Do or Die: Yankees Look to Ride Cole Train to ALCS

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In what may have been his last start dawning pinstripes, Masahiro Tanaka allowed the Rays to back the Yankees against a wall. But despite emptying the tanks of their elite relievers, the Yankees managed to force a Game 5 with one goal in mind: give the ball to Gerrit Cole.

The richest pitcher in baseball history will get his shot Friday night, pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career against what will likely be a tag-team of the Rays’ top tier pitchers, starting with Tyler Glasnow. In other words, the Yankees will try to repeat their Game 1 performance and the Rays will try to follow the script from Game 2. 
It doesn’t get much better than this. It’s the biggest rivalry in the American League these days (sorry, Boston fans, but you lost that honor when you traded Mookie Betts). It’s do or die. It’s the most expensive lineup in baseball vs. a “stable of guys who throw 98 miles per hour.” And with that, let’s preview what we’re going to see tonight.

Game Time: 7 p.m. on TBS
Crew: Brian Anderson, Ron Darling & Lauren Shehadi
No changes here by TBS from the past couple nights, and why would they? Sure, John Sterling is lovable enough to listen to despite the fact that he can no longer see what’s happening on the field. And do I enjoy the YES crew of Michael Kay, Paul O’Neill, David Cone and Meredith Marakovits? Of course, they’re a solid squad. But the TBS crew has been crisp through four games. Darling is locked in every pitch and Shehadi seems to always have a timely insight or story. If the Yankees can advance, I hope this crew moves on with them.
1. LeMahieu 2B
2. Judge RF
3. Hicks CF
4. Stanton DH
5. Voit 1B
6. Gardner LF
7. Torres SS
8. Urshela 3B
9. Higashioka C
Poor Gary Sanchez. He focused all offseason on a new defensive stance, much to the chagrin of Alex Rodriguez, but he seems to have forgotten his swing from his rookie season when he hit .299 and homered 20 times in 53 games. Anyway, half of this lineup is red hot and can be flat-out exhausting for opposing pitchers to handle.
1. Meadows RF
2. Lowe 2B
3. Arozarena LF
4. Choi 1B
5. Diaz DH
6. Wendle 3B
7. Adames SS
8. Kiermaier CF
9. Zunino C
Arozarena and Wendle are the two hottest bats on the Rays, with the former homering off Cole in the first inning of Game 1. But there’s only one non-Yankee hitter on the planet who’s actually excited to see Cole tomorrow, and that’s Choi, who has God-like numbers against the pitching savant. 
While neither pitcher broke 100 pitches in their starts earlier in the series, both broke 100 on the radar gun. The only difference is Cole will have one more extra day of rest than Glasnow, which cannot be overestimated.
The hope is Cole can give you six innings and then they can bridge Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman through 7-8-9 once again. In an emergency, I do think the Yankees will push out Green again despite being overworked (per usual).
Despite how dominant he was in Game 2, I can’t imagine they expect Glasnow to offer more than three innings. I get it, you have to leave all of your chips on the table, but at some point even the great ones get gassed. After Glasnow they will likely aim to get another 3-4 innings from Blake Snell, and then they have the filthy and well-rested duo of Diego Castillo and Nick Anderson to shut it down.
Who Advances?
The oddsmakers slightly favor the Yankees in Game 5 and I’d agree with them. Their lineup is enough of a strength that it should be able to carry them to the ALCS, setting up another major showdown with the Houston Astros.


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