The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians are familiar playoff foes, and they should provide another entertaining October series in this year’s ALDS.
The New York Yankees didn’t have too much time to celebrate their thrilling 8-4 come-from-behind victory over the Minnesota Twins in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game. They’ll be back at it tonight when they face the Cleveland Indians in Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Progressive Field.
While they now have the relative security of a five-game series as opposed to a do-or-die one-game playoff, the task in front of them doesn’t get any easier in a Tribe team that was the hottest squad in baseball going down the stretch.
When discussing Cleveland’s 2017 season, you have to start with the number 22. That’s the span of the record-breaking win streak they managed from Aug. 24 to Sept. 14, the one that catapulted them to the American League’s best record. It’s hard to imagine they finished the first half at a solid but not spectacular 47-40. They blew the doors off the competition after the midseason break with a 55-20 mark.
Having finally caught their breath after Tuesday night’s marathon (though given the bullpen’s role, perhaps it was more like a relay race), the Yankees announced their starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2. Sonny Gray will take the mound tonight against Trevor Bauer, while CC Sabathia gets the ball on Friday opposite Indians ace Corey Kluber.
The Tribe raised a few eyebrows by tabbing Kluber for Game 2 rather than the series opener, though there is some logic to the decision. They’ll be asking him to either tie the series in a crucial second game, or stake them to a commanding 2-0 series lead with a chance to clinch in Game 3. He’d still be ready for a potential series-deciding Game 5 next Wednesday on regular rest if needed, as well.
There aren’t many pitchers in the game right now you’d feel more confident sending to the hill than Kluber. He finished the season with a majors-leading 18 wins, 2.25 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 7.36 K/BB ratio and three complete game shutouts. He’s a strong bet to claim his second Cy Young Award.
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On the Yankees’ side, Sabathia will face his old club in the postseason for the first time. It’s been 10 years since CC wore an Indians uniform, and he’s been through his share of ups and downs since then. However, this year featured significantly more peaks than valleys. The 37-year-old lefty collected 14 victories while posting a 3.69 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 148.2 innings. His 122 ERA+ was his highest since he produced a 125 mark in 2012.
In his last eight starts, Sabathia pitched to a 2.91 ERA. You get the feeling the 17-year veteran is determined to make the most of this playoff chance in the twilight of his career, especially back where he spent his first eight big league seasons. It’s a compelling storyline in what should be a great series as a whole.
The Yankees and Indians already have some memorable playoff history between them. Cleveland’s comeback in the 1997 ALDS against the defending champs. A year later, they actually made the 114-win Bronx Bombers sweat a little in pushing the ALCS to six games. And who could forget 2007’s “midge game”? This year’s teams will seek to write a worthy next chapter.
The key names on both squads need little introduction. Aaron Judge. Edwin Encarnacion. Didi Gregorius. Francisco Lindor. Gary Sanchez. Jose Ramirez. No matter the outcome, fans will see some of MLB’s best go at it for at least three games. With 102 regular-season wins under the belt, Cleveland has to get the nod as the comfortable favorite. But it’s October, and this month often has a mind of its own.