Series Preview: Indians @ Yankees

The Yankees came out of the trade deadline fresh off becoming sellers for the first time in years. In spite of unofficially waiving the white flag, the Yankees showed some fight in them in game one of the Subway series rallying back from a 5-3 deficit to tie the game up in the eighth, then win it in extra innings. However, the Yankees were unable to build any momentum off that come-from-behind victory and wound up splitting the Subway Series. The Yankees are now slated to go up against one of the top teams in the American League, and their recent trade partner, the Cleveland Indians, in a three-game weekend series.

GAME ONE: (Friday, August 5 | 7:05 PM ET)
Josh Tomlin (11-3, 3.43 ERA) vs. Michael Pineda (5-10, 5.13 ERA)
Josh Tomlin has been one of the unsung heroes in a loaded Cleveland Indians starting rotation in 2016. As a guy who came into the season to be a back-end of the rotation starter, Tomlin has been one of the better starters on the Indians. A true pitching to contact pitcher, Tomlin has just 87 strikeouts in 120.2 innings pitched, as he really relies on hitters to get themselves out. This has been a recipe of success for Tomlin dating back to last season and he will certainly look to maintain his success against a less than stellar Yankee offense.

On the flipside, Michael Pineda will get the ball for the Yanks in game one. Pineda has been the epitome of frustration for Yankee fans this year. Believe it or not, Pineda is tied for fifth in the American League (with Chris Sale) in strikeouts with 143. However, he is tied for the third worst (with Ricky Nolasco) in ERA at 5.13. Simply, Pineda has been all or nothing for the Yankees. When he isn’t missing bats, he’s finding barrels and that is why opposing hitters have pounded him for 20 homers and a .265 average against him. Pineda’s the type of pitcher to throw six scoreless, or four innings of six-run ball, so it’s tough to give an advantage to the Yankees in this one due to the unpredictability of Pineda.
Photo Credit: Al Bello | Getty Images
GAME TWO: (Saturday, August 6 | 1:05 PM ET)
Corey Kluber (10-8, 3.27 ERA) vs. CC Sabathia (6-8, 4.15 ERA)
The 2014 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has put together his first All-Star season in 2016 with the Indians. Kluber ranks third in the American League with opposing hitters hitting just .216 against him, and he is fourth in strikeouts with 145. Kluber tossed eight innings on one-run ball on July 8 against the Yankees, so they will have their hands full against the Tribe's ace.

CC Sabathia's struggles have continued dating back June 22 when he allowed six earned against Colorado. Going into that start, his ERA sat at 2.20 and it now stands at 4.15. Even still, Sabathia has been a more than serviceable fifth starter and will surely going out and compete every fifth day for the Yankees. Sabathia will need to revert back to his May ways if the Yankees want a chance at taking game two, otherwise it could be lopsided.
GAME THREE: (Sunday, August 7 | 1:05 PM ET)
Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 3.12 ERA) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (7-4, 3.46 ERA)
Carlos Carrasco represents the third man in the Indians three-headed monster that includes Kluber, Danny Salazer (out on the DL), and Carrasco. Carrasco has been a big strikeout guy for the past two seasons striking out 9.4 batters per nine innings in 2014 and 10.6 in 2015. However, he now strikes out 8.2 hitters per nine innings Carrasco got rocked in his last outing against Minnesota giving up eight runs in 3.2 innings but he has incredible shut down stuff and could be a problem for Yankee hitters who will have their hands full this series.

Masahiro Tanaka will be on the bump in game three of this series. Tanaka's last seven starts haven't been as good as the beginning of his season as he's gone 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. The key to Tanaka's success is keeping the ball in the ballpark as he's only allowed 14 dingers in 140.1 innings this year compared to 25 in 154 innings last year. If Tanaka has his ace stuff, the Yankees should have the upper hand in what could be a pitcher's duel.

Three players to watch for the Yankees
1. Gary Sanchez
At the top catching prospect in all of baseball, Gary Sanchez has finally arrived in the Bronx for more than just a few days, and it looks like he may be here to stay. Depending on his performance from now until the end of the year, there may be added pressure to move Brian McCann this offseason so Sanchez can take over as the Pinstriper’s backstop. For now, Sanchez has been regulated to a DH role with spot starts at catcher, and he will be making his debut at catcher in the MLB in game one of this series. In the two games since being called up on Aug. 3, Sanchez is 3-8 at the plate (.375) with one double that he ripped down the left field wall one-hopping the wall. Sanchez has a big swing at the plate, so if he gets a hold of one, we may see his first MLB home run this weekend.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac
2. Dellin Betances
With the trades of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances is now the closer for the Bronx Bombers. Dealin’ Dellin recorded his first save against the Mets in Citi Field making it an interesting 10th inning, so it’ll be interesting to see how he embraces the closer role from here on out. He’s off to a shaky start, but Yankee fans know how dominant he is out of the bullpen.

3. Didi Gregorius
With Carlos Beltran also being traded, Didi Gregorius has become the best player on the Yankees, although you wouldn’t know it, because Joe Girardi seems to refuse to hit him higher than sixth in the batting order. However, Gregorius does it all at shortstop playing smooth defense, and he is coming into his own at the plate. Gregorius would love to get on base at a higher rate than his .320 OBP, but his .290 batting average and .306 BABIP indicate that he is much improved at the plate.

Three Players to watch for the Indians
1, Francisco Lindor
Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor is a star in the making. Hitting .306 with 13 homers, 56 RBIs, and 13 stolen bases, Lindor does a bit of everything hitting in the middle of the Tribe’s order. And let’s not forget about Lindor’s defensive abilities. Lindor’s .985 fielding percentage ranks fifth in all of baseball and his defensive WAR of 17.4 ranks second in baseball behind Brandon Crawford of San Francisco. Lindor’s five-tool makeup is why he’s quickly ascended to being one of the top shortstops in baseball. At just 22, Lindor is always an exciting, young player to watch.

2. Andrew Miller
When the Cleveland Indians acquired Andrew Miller from the Yankees, they got the best reliever in baseball and a guy who propels them to being one of the favorites in the American League. Miller told YES Network’s Meredith Marakovitz that he was not looking forward to going toe-to-toe with his former teammates right after he was being traded. Unfortunately, Miller likely won’t have the choice and we will almost surely see him mowing Yankee hitters down at some point in this series.
Photo Credit: Ron Schwane | AP
3. Mike Napoli
Indians first baseman Mike Napoli is piecing together his finest season since 2011 when he was a catcher for the Texas Rangers. Currently hitting .253 with 27 home runs (three shy of a career high), the 34-year-old is having a resurgence at the plate. Napoli – a career .253 hitter – seems to have extra adrenaline flowing when he is playing the Yankees as evidenced by his .302 batting average and 1.008 OPS against the team. He also has 18 homers against the Yankees in his career. He’s a free swinger at the plate and it seems as though Yankee fans are holding their breaths every time he takes a hack at the plate as he has the ability to go deep at any moment.

Three series storylines
1. How will Andrew Miller respond to being an opposing player in Yankee Stadium once again?
Miller has plenty of experience pitching in Yankee Stadium both with the Yankees and against them as he has pitched for the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees. However, it has been almost two years since he last pitched in Yankee Stadium against the Pinstripes. Surely, friendships go out the window when he steps on the hill, but going up against guys he’s been surrounded by for a year and a half will be an adjustment for the tall lefty.

2. Will Alex Rodriguez play at all?
Brace yourselves, we are boarding the emotional rollercoaster that is the end of Alex Rodriguez’s career. To this point, Rodriguez has been loved by some Yankee fans, and hated by others. Not having A-Rod in the middle of the order is a weird adjustment for Yankee fans. Rodriguez has started just one game since July 23. With him being four homers shy of 700 homers and being owed $21 million next year, do the Yankees executives have the guts to eat the money and cut him? Simply holding up a roster spot seems wasteful, and it seems as though any at-bat could be his last.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac
3. Will the Yankees call on any more youth at some point in this series?
This one ties into the Alex Rodriguez situation. Brian Cashman has said there are going to be more moves between now and September 1 involving the continuation of the youth movement. The first in the line of call-ups was Gary Sanchez, but we should also expect to see recently acquired Ben Heller, resurgent Tyler Austin, and prospect favorite Aaron Judge in the next few weeks. When these guys come up, will we have a revolving door situation where Sanchez goes down for one of them, and we see the prevalent Scranton Shuttle for Heller, or do the Yankees make the bold move to get younger by cutting A-Rod? This is something yet to be seen, but it is certainly something to keep an eye on during this series, if the Yankees elect to call any of these three up, as they are MLB-ready with the RailRiders in Triple-A.

As much as I want to predict a series victory for the Yankees, I simply cannot do it as the Indians are just too talented. The Yankee offense has struggled and with a top-tier Indians staff, they should have their way with the Yankees. I am by no means saying that the Yankees will be swept by the Indians, and I expect them to compete, but the Tribe will likely take two of three from the Bombers.

Article by: Chad Raines

Follow me on twitter @Chad_Rain
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