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The Indians are going with Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, to open ALDS

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Indians manager Terry Francona has set his ALDS rotation, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports, and it’s interesting. Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, will open the series. Kluber will go in Game 2 followed by Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin. Kluber would pitch Game 5 if necessary.

The first two games of the ALDS will be held in Cleveland on Thursday and Friday. It resumes on Sunday and continues on Monday either in New York or Minnesota, depending on who wins the AL Wild Card Game. And Game 5 would be held on Wednesday. So, Kluber would have four days of rest if he were to start Game 5.

According to Baseball Reference, Francona is playing to Kluber’s strength based on 2017 stats. On four days of rest, Kluber posted a 1.67 ERA in 124 innings this season. On five days of rest, he had a 3.64 ERA in 47 innings. However, this was not true last year. He had a 3.53 ERA in 120 innings on four days of rest and a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings on five days of rest. There was hardly a difference in 2015. In 2014, when Kluber won the AL Cy Young Award, he had a 2.08 ERA in 160 1/3 innings on four days of rest and a 2.84 ERA in 63 1/3 innings on five days of rest. The fluctuation within this split are more or less what we should expect given these relatively small individual samples of data.

The Yankees and Twins are using their best pitchers in tonight’s Wild Card game, so neither pitcher will be available in Game 1 of the ALDS. So Francona could also be trying to line up Kluber against Luis Severino or Ervin Santana in Game 2 possibly, and letting Bauer face either team’s second-best pitcher in Game 1.

As Francona showed last year with his bullpen management, he’s not afraid to buck the trend. The Indians also have some very smart people in their analytics department who are likely looking at reams of data beyond the rudimentary stuff I’ve listed above and see enough justification to do something unorthodox. We’ll see how it pans out over the next week.

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.