The Yankees take on the Indians in Game 5 of the ALDS this evening and its a matchup for which Terry Francona prepared. Going against conventional wisdom, he held his best starter — Corey Kluber — out of Game 1 so that he’d be available for a deciding Game 5, if necessary.
Not that Kluber’s Game 2 performance gives us any reason to assume the Indians have the advantage.
Kluber was rocked in Game 2, only lasting two and two-thirds innings, giving up seven hits and six earned runs. It if was not for a near miraculous Indians comeback — aided, of course, by a blown hit-by-pitch call that Joe Girardi failed to challenge — the Yankees would be preparing to take on the Astros in the ALCS right now. Still, as Francona said yesterday: “We wanted Kluber if we got to this game, and we got to this game.”
The Yankees enter the game having won two in a row, both at home, against a Cleveland team many consider the best in baseball. But momentum, the old saying goes, is only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher. That starting pitcher is CC Sabathia, and not mid-season acquisition Sonny Gray, who pitched in Game 1 and has one more day’s rest than the big man does. Gray has been something less than reliable of late, however, lasting only three and a third innings in Game 1 of this series, allowing three runs and walking four. Sabathia seemed to have everything under control in Game 2 but was pulled after just 77 pitches, making way for the bullpen to allow the Indians’ big comeback. Joe Girardi probably should’ve had more confidence in Sabathia on that day, but he certainly seems to have more confidence in him now. Can’t say I’d disagree with him.
The only unknown for this game is whether or not Edwin Encarnacion, who sprained his ankle in Game 2 of the series, will be in action. Yesterday Francona said he believed he would be, but it’ll be a close-to-game time decision. UPDATE: The decision has been made. Encarnacion will play and bat cleanup for Cleveland.
This game is likely to be decided by Corey Kluber and CC Sabathia. If the usual Kluber shows up, the Yankees are going to have a hard time. If they get to him in any way close to the way they got to him in Game 2, Francona will have to go to his much-used bullpen early, giving the Yankees a big advantage. An advantage that, perhaps this time, they’ll be able to capitalize upon.