Posted on October 6, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After a great performance in the Wild Card Game, the New York Yankees could not keep it going in Game 1 of the ALDS. New York was completely shut out by Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer. The controversial pick for Game 1 was utterly brilliant against the Yankees, tossing 6.2 shutout innings. Terry Francona’s decision to start Bauer in Game 1 looks like a great move, as now the Yankees are down a game and have to face Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 2.
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It seems like a minor detail, but Gary Sanchez playing behind the plate may be hurting the Yankees in this series. There were concerns about his defense earlier in the season, but he improved enough to satisfy Yankees skipper Joe Girardi. But in Game 1, Sanchez was unsatisfactory in blocking balls in the dirt, allowing four wild pitches. The Yankees may be better served with Sanchez in the DH spot and Austin Romine catching; defense behind the plate is a detail that can’t be overlooked.
Kluber, the man who carried Cleveland’s rotation last October, is now in a position to give the Indians a 2-0 ALDS lead. Thanks to a dominant second half that may have propelled him to the Cy Young Award, Kluber won 18 games in 2017 for the third time in four years. In six September starts, Kluber was 5-0 with a 0.84 ERA, so he enters the postseason at the top of his game. He was also 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA during last year’s postseason, so he won’t be fazed by the moment and appears poised to pitch another gem in Game 2.
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He’ll be opposed by C.C. Sabathia, who spent the first seven and a half years of his career in Cleveland. At age 37, Sabathia was actually better this season than he was for most of his years with the Indians, going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA. He also possesses quite a bit of postseason experience. Friday’s game will mark his 19th playoff start and 20th appearance. Of course, he hasn’t pitched under postseason lights since 2012. He also didn’t pitch against the Indians this season and struggled in two outings against them last year. Nevertheless, he may be the most trustworthy pitcher in New York’s rotation at this point in the season.
As important as Sabathia is to the Yankees in Game 2, the bullpen will be more important and the biggest X-factor on Friday. Despite the loss in Game 1, Girardi was able to stay away from Chad Green, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle, who all pitched multiple innings in Tuesday’s win against the Twins. Those pitchers should all be well rested for Friday’s game, and Girardi isn’t likely to hesitate to use all of them for multiple innings again, knowing the Yankees can’t afford to go home down 2-0. If the Yankees get a lead at any point past the 3rd or 4th inning, don’t be surprised if Girardi tries to ride his bullpen to victory.
Despite New York’s desperation, it’s hard to go against Kluber. The Yankees have a strong lineup, but few have good career numbers against Kluber. Meanwhile, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and Austin Jackson have all hit Sabathia well in the past. It’ll be tough for the Yankees to hand a lead over to their bullpen. Look for the Indians to strike early, allowing Kluber to cruise. Cleveland wins 6-2.