Throughout the season, Trevor Bauer has talked about how much it has helped him to follow Corey Kluber in the rotation because he could track his usage and the success that he had. Well, now Kluber follows Bauer and if the Indians can win Game 2, Terry Francona’s decision looks absolutely brilliant. The potential AL Cy Young Award winner will take the hill against CC Sabathia, who gets a little bit of a surprising Game 2 start for the Yankees. No line is available at time of writing, but my somewhat educated guess is that we see Kluber in the -190 range.
The Indians are up 1-0 in the series after Trevor Bauer shoved on Thursday night. He didn’t give up a hit until the sixth and worked 6.2 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts against just one walk. Sonny Gray struggled with both his command and his control with just 3.1 innings of work and three runs allowed on three hits. He walked four and that was the difference in the game. The Indians walked six times and made the most of their five hits. The Yankees only walked three times and had three hits.
Those handicapping this game need to put it in the proper perspective. Yes, CC Sabathia is starting, but Chad Green is going to be ready to come in at the first sign of trouble. Sabathia wrapped up a solid regular season with a 3.69 ERA, a 4.49 FIP, and a 4.11 xFIP. Sabathia has done a good job of inducing weak contact this season, with a .276 BABIP against, though he did allow 21 home runs in 148.2 innings of work. Green was unavailable on Thursday due to his multi-inning relief appearance in the Wild Card Game, but he will be the piggyback today in all likelihood. He worked 69 innings during the season with a 1.83 ERA, a 1.75 FIP, and a 2.55 xFIP. He’ll be the bridge to the back end of the bullpen, as guys like Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson got Thursday off and Aroldis Chapman didn’t pitch. Sabathia’s job will be to go as long as he can and he will also force the Indians to use their lineup against lefties before the Yankees go to their right-handed-heavy bullpen.
The keys to the series that I discussed in my preview were on display in Game 1. The big difference between the Indians lineup and the Yankees lineup was New York’s strikeout rate. That came to the forefront in last night’s game, as the Indians struck out later in the game against the bullpen and the Yankees struck out against starter Trevor Bauer. Aaron Judge struck out four times, though he reached on a wild pitch once. Roberto Perez shined behind the plate and Gary Sanchez was a mess. To be fair, the Yankees pitching staff bounced a lot of breaking balls and made life tough on Sanchez, but his technique is really subpar and his receiving skills are non-existent. This is a big edge for the Indians in this series and one they exploited to create an insurance run when Jose Ramirez advanced twice on wild pitches and scored on a sac fly. The Indians advanced four times on wild pitches overall in the game.
Corey Kluber made a great case for the Cy Young by being unhittable since his return from the DL in June. He finished the season with a 2.25 ERA, a 2.50 FIP, and a 2.52 xFIP. He struck out 265 and walked 36 in 203.2 innings of work. He will give up the occasional long ball, with 21 allowed this season, but his stuff is unquestionably elite. The numbers since June 1 read like one of those magazines you stole from your dad as a kid. Kluber posted a 1.62 ERA with a 2.06 FIP and a 2.22 xFIP in 166.1 innings of work across 23 starts. He struck out 224 and walked 23. Kluber’s cutter curve/slider combo, depending on which pitch classification method you use, should have similar success to what Bauer did with some cutters and a lot of curves last night. The one concern with Kluber is that he gives up some hard contact on his sinker, but I would expect increased curveball usage in this spot.
One concern for the Indians here in this spot is that Andrew Miller threw 30 pitches yesterday and Cody Allen threw 20. Allen is undoubtedly available, but my guess here is that Francona, who admitted before the postseason that he cannot use the bullpen (read: Miller) like he did last season, will shy away from extending Miller, who was limited to 57 appearances and 62.2 innings with a knee issue this season. He might be used in a LOOGY role or a couple of very high-leverage plate appearances, but a multi-inning appearance seems unlikely. That means we’ll see the series debuts of Joe Smith and Bryan Shaw in this game, unless Kluber can work eight or more innings. It’s something to keep in mind for those looking at live betting opportunities.
Free MLB Pick: New York Yankees
The Yankees are going to be a big underdog here because of the perception of Sabathia vs. Kluber, but unless Sabathia gets blown out early on, this is going to be more of a bullpen game for the Yankees. In that scenario, they should be a live dog here. Wait on this number because Kluber should get steamed by both sharp and public money and then play the line back when it peaks. I’d also guess that those that might want to grab Kluber at open and then come back on the Yankees may grab 20-30 cents of arbitrage on this game. The market may not play out that way, but that would be my guess. If this does become a bullpen game, the limited availability of Miller could be a big factor and one worth gambling on.
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