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Terry Francona gets what he planned for as Kluber takes the hill in Game 5

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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.

Angels fire back at Rob Manfred’s comments re: Mike Trout

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Angels outfielder Mike Trout‘s marketability has been a topic of conversation in recent days as the best players in baseball converged upon Washington, D.C. for the All-Star Game. We learned that, according to one firm that measures consumer appeal of personalities, Trout is as recognizable to the average American as Brooklyn Nets reserve forward Kenneth Faried, despite being far and away the best player in baseball and one of the greatest players ever to play the game.

Commissioner Rob Manfred also addressed Trout’s marketability, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reported. Manfred said, “Mike has made decisions on what he wants to do, doesn’t want to do, how he wants to spend his free time or not spend his free time. I think we could help him make his brand very bug. But he has to make a decision to engage. It takes time and effort.”

The Angels fired back on Wednesday, releasing a statement that said:

On behalf of the Angels Organization and baseball fans everywhere, congratulations to Mike Trout on another outstanding All-Star Game performance.

Mike Trout is an exceptional ambassador for the game. Combined with his talent, his solid character creates a perfect role model for young people everywhere. Each year, Mike devotes a tremendous amount of his time and effort contributing to our Organization, and marketing Major League Baseball. He continually chooses to participate in the community, visiting hospitals, schools, and countless other charities. One of Mike’s traits that people admire most is his humility. His brand is built upon generously spending his time engaging with fans, both at home and on the road, while remaining a remarkable baseball player and teammate.

In addition, Mike spends quality time as a husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. We applaud him for prioritizing his personal values over commercial self-promotion. That is rare in today’s society and stands out as much as his extraordinary talent.

It’s not on Trout to build a brand that appeals to MLB’s marketing department, so the Angels are right to back Trout’s decision to stay out of the limelight. The Angels’ motivation likely isn’t entirely selfless, however, as supporting him in this situation may make it more enticing for him to sign a contract extension before his current contract expires after the 2020 season.