Series Preview: Indians vs. Yankees (5/4-5/6)

The Yankees return home this week and head into this series scorching hot, having won 12 of their last 13 contests, including just taking three of four from the defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros.  This weekend's series will be a rematch of the 2017 ALDS where the Yanks topped the Indians in a thrilling five-game series. The Indians come in with a 17-14 record, which is still good for first in the abysmal AL Central. The Yanks currently sit at 21-10, just a game back of the Red Sox for the top spot in the AL East.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Game 1: Friday, May 4 | First Pitch: 7:05 PM ET 
CC Sabathia (2-0, 1.71 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (0-4, 9.16 ERA)  

CC has enjoyed a tremendous start to the season, as he's been the Yankees' second-best pitcher so far. In five outings, Sabathia has only allowed more than one earned run just once.  His last two starts have been especially impressive, facing the Twins and the Angels, combining for 13 innings while allowing just seven hits and one earned run.  The left-hander has been a much-needed boost with the struggles of Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka.  The Yanks will need him to continue his start after the injury of Jordan Montgomery.  

Josh Tomlin has always struggled to keep his ERA away from the high 4.00s, but this season it's been even worse. Tomlin's made five appearances, four of which have been starts. Other than the five-inning shutout he pitched against the Tigers, Tomlin has allowed 25 hits and 19 runs (13.50 ERA) in his other three starts combined. In those three starts, Tomlin has allowed an alarming 10 homers. His last outing against the Mariners, in which he gave up 10 hits and six runs in six innings, actually lowered his ERA from 9.24 to 9.16. The Yanks offense should have no problem putting runs on the board in this one, although they have struggled with him in year's past, as the current Yankees have a combined .171 average off him. 

Game 2: Saturday, May 5 | First Pitch: 1:05 PM ET 
Sonny Gray (1-2, 6.67 ERA) vs. Trevor Bauer (2-2, 2.45 ERA) 

Sonny Gray has carried his struggles from the end of the 2017 season into 2018.  With six starts under his belt thus far, Gray has just two quality starts on the season.  He's already had four outings in which he pitched four innings or less, something the Yankees need him to improve on the most.  His last start, against the Astros, was encouraging, as he gave up just two runs in six innings against one of the best offenses in the league.  His ERA of 6.67 and WHIP of 1.93 are well above his career averages and his track record points to him turning things around.  With his second consecutive good start against another good offense in the Indians, Gray will be back in business if he pitches well in this one.  

Batters to watch out for: 
Brandon Guyer: 3-for-8, 2 HR, 5 RBI, BB 
Michael Brantley: 6-for-18, 2 2B, 3 BB 

Bauer has enjoyed a nice start to the season for the Indians so far, pitching to a 2.45 ERA, 10th in the AL. His 46 strikeouts, in 40.1 innings, also ranks 11th in the AL.  Bauer's given the Indians length this season as well, as his shortest outing in the last five appearances he's made has been 6.2 innings. The lone start that was not a quality start, his first of the season, he still gave up just two runs in five innings of work. A high-strikeout pitcher, the Yankees could have some trouble against him on Saturday. 

Batters to watch out for: 
Didi Gregorius: 5-for-16, 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, BB 
Brett Gardner: 6-for-20, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 5 BB 

Game 3: Sunday, May 6 | First Pitch: 1:05 PM ET 
Domingo German (0-1, 3.77 ERA) vs. Mike Clevinger (2-0, 2.82 ERA) 

Whether it's just for the short-term or long-term has yet to be determined, but German will be stepping into the Yankees' rotation for the injured lefty Jordan Montgomery, who is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.  German has a chance to step up and take over the fifth spot in the rotation, particularly if he performs well in this one.  This will be German's first career start after making five relief appearances for the Yanks so far in 2018.  After Montgomery pitched just one inning, due to injury, German stepped up big time and gave the Yankees four scoreless innings against the Astros. So far on the year, he's pitched to a 3.77 ERA across 14.1 innings along with 18 strikeouts.  

Photo Credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images

Clevinger, the 27-year-old right-hander, burst onto the scene in 2017, breaking out for a 12-6 record with a 3.11 ERA and a 150 ERA+.  His contributions made the Indians' starting rotation very deep, and was much-needed after injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco.  After a 3.1 WAR season in 2017, Clevinger already has a 1.0 WAR so far in 2018.  He's coming off back-to-back average starts against the Mariners and Rangers, as he's combined to pitch 12.2 innings while allowing 15 hits and seven runs (4.97 ERA) in those two starts.  Before that, Clevinger pitched an impressive two-hit shutout against the Orioles.  The current Yankees have just three total ABs against Clevinger, going two-for-three including a homer from Aaron Judge.  

Players to Watch: 

Didi Gregorius 
Gregorius has enjoyed a ridiculous start to the season, well on pace to making the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.  The reason he's specifically a player to watch in this series is how absurd he's been at home.  Quite pedestrian on the road with a .250 batting average and just one homer, Gregorius has 55 ABs at Yankee Stadium so far in 2018, batting .418 with nine homers and 25 RBIs, along with four doubles and 13 walks.  Not only has he hit for average and broken out a bit in the power department, but Gregorius has also started to walk at a much higher rate than last season.  Already one of the league's best shortstops, don't expect Gregorius to slow down in this series. 

Photo Credit: AP
Neil Walker 
So far this season, Neil Walker has been the 2018 scapegoat for the Yanks.  Signed late in the offseason to a relatively cheap deal for a veteran bat like his, Walker has been abysmal in pinstripes, hitting .171 so far without a homer.  With just seven RBIs on the season, Walker has accumulated a –0.8 WAR.  His time with the Yanks is likely coming to an end in the coming weeks, as Greg Bird and Brandon Drury are nearing returns from the DL.  His bat hasn't provided what the Yanks expected and if he doesn't turn things around in this series, he's likely to be DFA'd for the likes of the aforementioned names or even youngsters in the minors 

Edwin Encarnacion 
After an abysmal start to the season that saw his batting average in the .160s, Encarnacion has started to turn things around over his last three games.  In those three games alone, he's raised his average from .160 to .209, in which he's had eight hits in 15 ABs with nine RBIs.  His three-homer, six-RBI performance against the Rangers raised his average from .171 to .191 and his slugging from .352 to .445.  He followed that performance up with going three-for-five again, knocking in three RBIs.  He's now got nine homers and 19 RBIs for the season to go along with his improved average.  Encarnacion has played in 131 games over the years against the Yankees, batting a career .278 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs.  

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

Jose Ramirez 
The 2017 All-Star infielder has heated up lately, going 10-for-23 over his last five games with five doubles, a homer, and seven RBIs.  Ramirez got off to a bit of a slow start, but has bounced back and is now slashing .277/.372/.538 with eight homers and 19 RBIs on the season.  He's quietly become one of the best third baseman in the league and has consistently been the Indians' best hitter for over a year and a half now.  In 24 games lifetime against the Yankees, Ramirez has shredded New York pitching for a .344 average to go along with four doubles, three homers, and 11 RBIs. 

Another thrilling matchup in early-May, this ALDS rematch will be intriguing to watch after how things ended last season.  The Indians will come out with a vengeance just like how the Yankees did this past week against the Astros.  Despite that though, with the Yanks returning home, I expect them to take two of three against the AL Central-leading Indians.  

Article by: Spencer Schultz


Popular posts from this blog

Introducing Bronx Bomber Bets: BBBets 9/23

An Unofficial Guide to Food Options at Yankee Stadium

Frankie Crosetti: “King of Rings”