Last Updated: 2017-10-10
The stress level of a winner-take-all game in the Major League Baseball playoffs is off the charts. We’ve got one on Wednesday night between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians just down the street from Lake Erie at Progressive Field. The pitching matchup will be a repeat of Game 2, which featured CC Sabathia up against Corey Kluber. Sabathia was the better pitcher in that game, but the Indians had one of the more improbable comeback wins in recent playoff history. Cleveland is a -195 favorite to advance to the ALCS for the second consecutive year.
This has been one of those series that defines playoff baseball. The Indians rocked the best bullpen in baseball in Game 2 in order to take a 2-0 series lead. Everything seems to go Cleveland’s way in the first two games, with Francisco Lindor’s grand slam off the foul pole and Joe Girardi’s inability to challenge a borderline call. In the Bronx, fortune favored the home team, with Aaron Judge just tall enough to rob a Lindor home run, a coin flip check swing call going New York’s way, and a ball that hit chalk opening the floodgates. Most playoff games are decided by a handful of 50/50 outcomes. That has been the case for a decent chunk of this series, which is why we have a Game 5.
It will be interesting to see how long the leash is for CC Sabathia with Sonny Gray, Chad Green, and Adam Warren all waiting in the wings as multi-inning options in an effort to push this game to the primary relievers. Sabathia was good enough in Game 2 with 5.2 innings and just two earned runs allowed. He struggled at the outset, but made a strong in-game adjustment to throw a significant number of sliders and the Indians failed to adjust. Sabathia wound up throwing 77 pitches before Chad Green lit a fire on the mound. The Indians should be better equipped for Sabathia the second time around, so we’ll have to see how aggressive Girardi is. Obviously the score of the game will dictate that, but my guess is that Sabathia’s leash is quite short.
A lineup change to put Didi Gregorius behind Aaron Judge didn’t have an overly significant impact on Game 4, but the Yankees were able to get a little confidence rolling after scoring just one run in the Game 3 victory. Judge also had a big blow with a two-run double, but now has 12 strikeouts in 19 at bats in the series. The Yankees have gotten more offensive contributions from the middle and bottom of their order, as Brett Gardner and Judge have struggled, which has been the difference in the last two games.
Corey Kluber was uncharacteristically awful in Game 2. He allowed six runs on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He gave up home runs to both Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks. It took Kluber 76 pitches to get through 2.2 innings and he just didn’t seem to have much in the way of command. Kluber had nine swings and misses, but only gotten strike one on eight of 16 batters and didn’t have the command to work from behind. Another point of emphasis coming out of Game 2 is that Kluber’s fastball velocity just was not there. He was working with an extra day of rest and is apparently pretty picky about going on his regular turn. He will be in Game 5. This was the failsafe for the Indians with the Kluber/Bauer Game 1 decision. We’ll see if Terry Francona’s Plan C to have Kluber on regular rest pans out in this elimination game.
Whether or not Kluber pitches well may not matter if the Indians offense doesn’t get going. A two-run homer from Carlos Santana and a Roberto Perez home run means that the Indians have just five runs scored since the sixth inning of last Friday’s crazy Game 2. Five runs across 25 innings are not going to get it done very often. The Indians also allowed six unearned runs in Game 4 in a very uncharacteristic defensive performance. They had two errors in Game 2 as well. This has not been the Indians team that we saw all season, so they better do some soul searching prior to Game 5. Video surfaced of Edwin Encarnacion getting some running in at Progressive Field on Tuesday’s off day and it looks like there’s a chance that he could be back in the lineup. Another boost for the Indians would come if Jason Kipnis moved back to second base and Jose Ramirez played at third, but we’ll have to see how Terry Francona opts to set up his lineup after Giovanny Urshela booted two plays in Game 4 and Erik Gonzalez domed somebody in the camera bay in the late innings of Game 2.
Free MLB Pick: New York Yankees
From a line value standpoint, there’s no other way to go in this game. Laying the big price with Kluber seems ill-advised, not because of the bad Game 2 start, but simply because anything can happen in a one-game sample. Unless the Indians really get to Sabathia early, you’re going to see the Yankees bullpen in the middle innings and it should still be a toss-up game at that point.
A prop bet is being offered on Adam Burke’s peak blood pressure at over/under 180/120, with the over at -250 and the under at +210, for those that are so inclined.
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