Series Preview: Yankees @ Indians (7/12-7/15)

The Yanks head to Cleveland for a four-game series in a rematch of the 2017 ALDS, where the Yanks fought back from a 2-0 deficit to win in five games. Despite being 10 games better than the Indians, the Yanks find themselves in second place in the AL East with the Indians sitting at first in the embarrassingly easy AL Central with a 50-31 record.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Game One: Thursday, July 12 | First Pitch: 7:10 PM ET
Luis Severino (14-2, 2.12 ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (12-4, 2.49 ERA)

What a phenomenal pitching matchup in game one, as these are surefire top-five starters in the AL and both arguably even top-three. Starting with Severino, he looks to be a likely candidate to start the All-Star Game for the AL. Now with 19 starts under his belt, Severino has been a true ace this season. He’s allowed more than three runs just once in those 19 starts, while also being a workhouse. In 123.1 innings, fourth-most in the AL, Severino has allowed an impressive 88 hits while striking out 143 (sixth in the AL) and giving up just eight homers. He’s been as consistent as it gets, and this’ll be Severino’s first start against Cleveland since game four of the ALDS last season.

Now going on five years, Kluber’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a while now. The 32-year-old just earned his third consecutive invitation to the ASG with perhaps the second-best season of his career. His 2017 season was truly phenomenal, accumulating 18 wins, a 2.25 ERA, a 2.50 FIP, and 265 strikeouts in 203.2 innings (11.7 K/9). He hasn’t been nearly as dominant this season, as his K/9 has decreased to 8.8 and FIP has inflated to 3.31. As the ASG nears, he is already standing at 12 wins, which is well on pace to break his career-high of 18 wins that he’s racked up three times. Kluber will be looking for revenge against the Yanks in this start after he pitched just 6.1 innings across two outings while allowing 10 hits and nine runs (12.79 ERA).

Game Two: Friday, July 13 | First Pitch: 7:10 PM ET
Domingo Germán (2-4, 5.06 ERA) vs. Shane Bieber (4-1, 3.47 ERA)

In a matchup of two youngsters, Germán comes in after an excellent start his last time out against Toronto. The second-best start of his early career, Germán went six innings on the road, giving up just four hits and one run while racking up five strikeouts. The right-hander has shown to have very good stuff at the Major League level, but is still trying to figure out the nuances of being a starting pitcher at the highest level. He’s certainly got potential and could even be used as a possible trade chip at the deadline. If not, he’ll remain as the Yanks fifth starter for the remainder of the season.

After Danny Salazar was recently ruled out for the remainder of the season, Bieber was able to beat out Adam Plutko for the fifth spot in the rotation. With Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Clevinger, and Bauer all locked into the top four spots, Bieber has proven to be a solid end-of-the-rotation guy for the Indians in his short time so far. Across six starts, he has a stellar 3.47 ERA, but has struggled his last two times out. In each start, he’s went six innings and allowed four runs to the A’s and Royals. In 36.1 innings, Bieber has 36 strikeouts and a high WHIP of 1.40. If he pitches how he has recently, he’ll be on a short leash against the Yanks.

Game Three: Saturday, July 14 | First Pitch: 7:15 PM ET
CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.34 ERA) vs. Mike Clevinger (7-4, 3.34 ERA)

The 37-year-old left-hander was in a stretch of dominance before allowing five runs across five innings in his most recent start against the Orioles. Sabathia has created a new approach as he’s gotten older and has figured out how to do well without being the power pitcher he once was. Across 17 starts and 94.1 innings, Sabathia’s had an up-and-down season so far. He started off the season with a few nice starts followed by a rough patch then followed by another recent stretch of dominance. With all the talk of the Yanks needing a SP, Sabathia should still be relied and trusted upon by fans to come through clutch in the playoffs.
Photo Credit: Newsday
Clevinger has followed up his out-of-nowhere, breakout 2017 season with another solid year thus far. He’s shown to be a very good fourth starter for the AL Central-leading Indians, which has been needed the last two seasons with all of Salazar’s injury issues. Clevinger heads into the series tied-for-10th in the AL with his pitching counterpart Sabathia in ERA at 3.34. He’s also top 15 in innings pitched and wins. Two guys having similar seasons, this should be an intriguing pitching matchup.

Game Four: Sunday, July 15 | First Pitch: 1:10 PM ET
Masahiro Tanaka (7-2, 4.68 ERA) vs. Trevor Bauer (8-6, 2.30 ERA)

Tanaka’s followed up a horrendous 2017 with yet another disappointing campaign in 2018. After a promising postseason and spring training though, many thought he was primed for a bounce back season this year. Well, that hasn’t gone according to plan, as his flaws have all been obvious once again. He’s struggled to keep the ball in the park and has also suffered an injury that sidelined him for a while. With promising sophomore Jordan Montgomery receiving Tommy John Surgery and Sonny Gray being the abysmal mess that he has been, one could argue the Yanks need Tanaka to pitch to his potential more than they ever have. Against the worst team in baseball, Tanaka gave up six hits and three runs in 4.1 innings in his first start off the DL. The Yanks will need him to step up Sunday against a tremendous arm in Trevor Bauer.

Bauer has forever had great stuff, but hasn’t been able to put it together. He’s shown flashes of dominance, specifically against the Yankees, but has overall underwhelmed his whole career. This season, he’s been able to put it all together and pitch to his first career appearance in the Midsummer Classic. His 2.30 ERA ranks fourth in the AL and first on the team ahead of his teammate Kluber. He’s also third in strikeouts (168) and second in innings (129.1), as he’s been a clear top-five starter in the AL this season. The Yanks offense, who have historically struggled against him, will have their hands full against a new and improved Bauer.

Players to Watch:
Giancarlo Stanton
Coming into New York as the reigning NL MVP leads to massive expectations and fans weren’t happy with how things were in the beginning of the season. Stanton has since picked up the slack and raised his average to .276 and his OBP to .348. He’s now got 22 homers for the season, tied-for-seventh in the loaded American League. Stanton also ranks top 20 in the AL in hits (98, tied-for-17th), RBIs (54, tied-for-18th), slugging percentage (.518, 14th) and runs scored (56, tied-for-13th). Although he won’t be making an ASG appearance in pinstripes this season, Stanton has rebounded nicely from his first few abysmal weeks with the team.
Photo Credit: Daily News
Greg Bird
Bird has been less-than-stellar in his playing time in 2018 and has Yankee fans worrying about whether or not he’ll live up to his potential. He’s recently started to pick it up a bit, including having back-to-back four-RBI nights against the Orioles. Bird is now up to seven homers and 18 RBIs across 125 ABs with a disappointing .208 average. He has walked 18 times though, leading to a .324 OBP. If Bird continues to pick it up, this Yankees offense will be even more dangerous.

Edwin Encarnacion
It’s pretty hard for one to live up to the contract that Encarnacion received especially when you’re a DH, unless if you’re JD Martinez, but he’s still been producing big power numbers since moving to Cleveland. Encarnacion currently sits 12th in the AL in homers with 20 and tied-for-sixth in RBIs with 62. Encarnacion is a part of a great 1-2-3-4 punch on Cleveland’s offense that includes MVP candidates Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, as well as the consistent-hitting outfielder Michael Brantley. The DH also has always done quite well against the Yanks, dating back to his days with Toronto.
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Michael Brantley
Brantley has always been a talented outfielder for the Indians, but has seemed to be plagued by injuries on numerous occasions throughout his lengthy career. This season, finally able to stay fully healthy, you’ve been able to see what he can do at the plate. For the season, Brantley is slashing .307/.352/.488 in 326 ABs while hitting 11 homers and 52 RBIs. Those numbers have led Brantley to be selected to his third career ASG and second consecutive. A career .294 hitter, the downside of Brantley’s game has been his diminishing defense. Always just an average defender, he’s gotten even worse in that phase of his game. He’s also not stealing bases at the rate he used to a few years back, likely due in large part to all those injuries he’s suffered. Ramirez and Lindor are the big names in this lineup, but the Yankees will need to be careful with this guy in the series.

The Indians will be hungry in this series after being knocked out of the playoffs by the Yanks in 2017. Along with that, there’s some intriguing, balanced pitching matchups that should make this series have a playoff feel to it. In Cleveland, look for the series to be split when the weekend’s over.

Article by: Spencer Schultz


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