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Five things to watch as the Yankees take on Guardians in three-game series in Cleveland

Here are five things to look for if the Yankees and Cleveland Guardians will play a three-game series at Progressive Field starting Friday…

Big test for both teams

The Yankees faced some tough teams early in the season, but they will likely face their toughest test yet in the Cleveland Guardians.

Entering Friday’s game, the Guardians are second in the MLB in run differential (+35). The best run differential team is the Royals (+39) – helped by back-to-back shellackings from the Houston Astros.

But what that shows is how well Cleveland hits and throws. Three of their regulars are hitting over .300, inclusive Steven Kwan‘s .386 average (second in MLB). While no one player is leading many of the league’s offense, it is their complete and consistent stroke in the lineup that has helped them to a 9-3 start.

It also helps that they played seven games against the Oakland A’s and Chicago White Sox, going 5-2 in that span. Their other four wins came against the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins.

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So while Cleveland is a test for the Yankees, this weekend is also a big test for the Guardians and whether they can be legitimate competitors this season.

Can Nestor Cortes Get on?

Cortes had his best start of the season when he pitched eight scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out six against the Miami Marlins on Monday.

Was that a result of how bad the Marlins are, or is this the start of Cortes’ return to All-Star form?

Prior to Monday’s start, the 29-year-old gave up seven runs (six in the first inning), so the game against Miami was exactly what Cortes needed. He takes the mound in the series finale on Sunday, and his performance against a much stronger opponent will give us a better idea of ​​which way he leans.

It’s time to worry Aaron Judge?

The short answer is no.

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep an eye on Judge’s production at the plate. Everything gets magnified in New York, especially when the former AL MVP doesn’t come through in clutch moments — like he didn’t in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s game. But it goes a little deeper than that.

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Against the lowly Marlins, Judge went 1-for-9, with the only hit being a double. He walked four times, so he’s still on base in great fashion, but it’s alarming that the career .280 hitter is hitting .178 after 13 games – the lowest average after 13 games in his career. He has already hit four double plays after doing so just five times a year ago.

Things may not get any better this weekend. In 17 career games (16 starts), Judge is just 11-for-71 (.193) with just one home run and three RBI at Progressive Field.

Giancarlo Stanton is on fire

Another reason why fans shouldn’t worry about Judge is the production of others in the lineup, especially Stanton.

The slumping right-hander continues to produce. After starting the season 3-for-24, the slugger is 8-for-19 (.421) with three home runs and seven RBI in his last five games. That could also happen this weekend at Progressive Field.

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In 15 starts, Stanton is 15-for-61 (.259) with four home runs and six RBI in Cleveland.

This could be a weekend where Stanton gets a day off to allow Judge to move to DH – and possibly get his timing right – but the slugger should have plenty of opportunities to stay warm.

Anthony Volpe and the opening spot

Manager Aaron Boone shook up the lineup a bit on Wednesday when he fell Gleyber Torres to the number 6 spot and put Volpe ahead. Now, Boone said it had more to do with Torres being able to reset as he felt his infielder was under pressure, but Volpe was a machine on base to start the season.

While the Yanks lost Wednesday’s game, Volpe went 1-for-3 with two walks in the leadoff spot, while Torres was hitless (0-for-2) but walked twice. It will be interesting to see if Boone keeps the same lineup or if he will shake it up again. But with the way Volpe is hitting and getting on base (.342 average, .460 OBP), it may be difficult to take the top spot away from the second-year shortstop.

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