MLB Playoffs: Everything you need to know about ALDS between Yankees vs. Indians

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Thanks to Tuesday night’s Wild Card Game win over the Twins, the
New York Yankees
have advanced to the ALDS, where they will take on the defending AL champion
Cleveland Indians
. Some reward for winning the division, huh? A meeting with the best team in the league. Hey, if you don’t like it, win your division.

Anyway, the Indians had the AL’s best record at 102-60 during the regular season while the Yankees went 91-61, good for the circuit’s fourth-best record. Here are the ALDS start times and pitching matchups:

Game 1

Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7:30pm ET

Fox Sports 1

Progressive Field

Trevor Bauer
vs. TBA

Game 2

Friday, Oct. 6 at 5:00pm ET

MLB Network

Progressive Field

Corey Kluber
vs. TBA

Game 3

Sunday, Oct. 8 at 7:30pm ET

Fox Sports 1

Yankee Stadium

Carlos Carrasco
vs. TBA

Game 4*

Monday, Oct. 9 at TBA

Fox Sports 1

Yankee Stadium

Bauer or
Josh Tomlin
vs. TBA

Game 5*

Wednesday, Oct. 11 at TBA

Fox Sports 1

Progressive Field

Kluber vs. TBA

* Games 4 and 5 are if necessary in the best-of-five series

The Yankees and Indians are two of baseball’s oldest and most storied franchises, so this is a great old-school matchup between two extremely fun and exciting ballclubs. Here are seven things to know about the ALDS:

The Indians won the season series

The Yankees and Indians played two series during the regular season, both in August, with the Indians winning five of the seven games. They outscored New York only 35-31 in the seven games, however, so it wasn’t lopsided despite the win-loss record. Kluber threw a masterpiece in their first head-to-head meeting of the season, allowing one run on three hits and a walk in a complete-game win on Aug. 3. He struck out 11.

Sonny Gray
made his first start as a Yankee in that Aug. 3 game, and allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings. The Yankees made three errors behind him in the first inning.

The Indians swept three games at Yankee Stadium from Aug. 28-30. The middle game of the series was rained out and made up as part of a doubleheader the next day. Those three wins at Yankee Stadium were wins No. 5, 6, and 7 during Cleveland’s AL record 22-game winning streak.

They have recent postseason history

These two teams have been around forever, so of course they have some postseason history. Some of it is fairly recently too. Here are the last three times these clubs have met in October.

  • 1997 ALDS: Indians won in five games.
  • 1998 ALCS: Yankees won in six games.
  • 2007 ALDS: Indians win in four games.

That 1997 ALDS featured Sandy Alomar Jr. hitting a game-tying home run off
Mariano Rivera
in the eighth inning of Game 4. That was Rivera’s first year as closer and, believe it or not, there were lots of questions about whether he could handle the ninth inning.

As for the 2007 ALDS, that was the infamous midge series. The flying insects rained down on Progressive Field in Game 2, contributing to
Joba Chamberlain
eighth inning meltdown. He walked a batter, hit a batter, and uncorked two wild pitches to allow the Indians to tie the game 1-1. They went on to win the game in 11 innings.

Joe Torre, who managed the Yankees at the time, later said he regretted not pulling the team off the field as midges swarmed in.

They had the two best run differentials in baseball

During the regular season the Indians and Yankees outscored their opponents by more runs than every other team in the league. True story. Here is the run differential leaderboard:

  1. Indians: +254
  2. Yankees: +198

  3. Houston Astros

  4. Los Angeles Dodgers

  5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Based on that run differential, the Indians were “expected” to go 107-55, a few games better than their actual 102-60 record. The Yankees, meanwhile, were “expected” to go 100-62 based on their run differential. They instead went 91-71, so quite a difference there. Here’s the primary reason:

  • Yankees in one-run games in 2017: 18-26
  • Yankees in games decided by 5-plus runs in 2017: 37-13

The Yankees won a lot of blowouts and lost a lot of close one-run games, skewing their run differential. Still, outscore your opponents by 198 runs during the course of a 162-game season, and you’re doing something right.

The Yankees will be short in the bullpen in Game 1

Luis Severino
had a historically bad start in the Wild Card Game, allowing three runs in only one-third of an inning. That forced Yankees manager Joe Girardi to go to his vaunted bullpen, and boy did they deliver: 8 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 13 K.
Chad Green
David Robertson
, and
Tommy Kahnle
did the heavy lifting before
Aroldis Chapman
closed things out it the ninth.

Because of their extended outings in the Wild Card Game, neither Green nor Robertson is expected to be available in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday. Green threw 41 pitches in two innings Tuesday while Robertson threw a career-high 52 pitches in a career-high 3 1/2 innings. Here’s what Girardi said after the game:

“Greenie probably is going to need two days off. Robbie is probably going to need two days off. So there’s your answer (about using the bullpen like that again). If you’re playing four games in five nights, it’s really difficult to do. You can do it probably two of the games of the (five in the ALDS), but you can’t do it back to back. And a lot of times you can — if you were to do it on Game 2, you probably can’t even do it on Game 3, even with the off-day in between.”  

Kahnle threw only 29 pitches in his 2 1/3 innings in the Wild Card Game — that’s the second-longest outing his career by innings pitched — so I imagine he’ll be available in Game 1 of the ALDS, even if only for one inning. The Yankees are blessed with a deep bullpen, so even with Green and Robertson out of action, they’ll still have Kahnle,
Dellin Betances
, and
Adam Warren
ready to go in Game 1. And of course Chapman as well. That’s not a bad “Plan B” bullpen at all.

Still, the fact of the matter is Green and Robertson are New York’s two best relievers, and since they are unavailable for Game 1, the Yankees’ chances of winning the game go down. That’s just how it is. When your two best relievers are down, your chances decrease, and that’s what the Yankees are facing heading into the series.

Bauer, not Kluber, is starting Game 1

Interestingly enough, the Indians announced Tuesday that Bauer would start Game 1 on Thursday rather than Kluber, arguably the AL Cy Young favorite and unarguably the best starter on the staff. Here’s what manager Terry Francona had to say about that decision Tuesday, via’s Jordan Bastian:

“I think for a number of reasons, it makes good sense,” Francona said. “Not that you go into a game thinking you’re going to lose, but if you do, you have your ace coming back. The biggest thing was keeping him on his five-day. That was really important to Kluber. That was really the only way we could do it.” 

Long story short: the Indians believe Bauer is better able to come back on short rest in Game 4, if necessary. Kluber pitched on short rest three times in the postseason last year, including twice in the World Series, and the team doesn’t want to ask him to do that again. At least not yet, so Bauer gets the ball in Game 1, allowing Kluber to start Game 2 and then a potential Game 5 on normal rest. 

Similar to New York’s bullpen situation, this move does decrease Cleveland’s chances of winning Game 1 simply because Bauer is not as good as Kluber. The Yankees won’t have Green and Robertson in Game 1 because they worked so much in the Wild Card Game. The Indians are making the conscious decision to start Bauer over Kluber. It’s … interesting. Not sure I agree with it, though I understand it.

By the way, during the Division Series era, the team that wins Game 1 of the best-of-five series has gone on to win the series 71 percent of the time. It seems like starting the best pitcher in the league in Game 1 with a chance to take control of the series is a good idea. The Indians see it another way, obviously.

The Indians bullpen has a very Yankees vibe

For much of the season, the Indians carried six relievers who at one point spent time with the Yankees.
Andrew Miller
is the most notable, obviously. The others are
Tyler Olson
Nick Goody
Zach McAllister
Boone Logan
, and
Dan Otero
. That sextet combined for 280 1/3 innings with a 2.41 ERA and +7.7 WAR in 2017. Take away Miller and it’s still 216 2/3 innings with a 2.70 ERA and +4.6 WAR. The Indians got some real nice bullpen production from Yankees castoffs this year.

Logan will not be on the ALDS roster because he is current rehabbing lat injury, and Joe Noga of reports Goody, McAllister, and Otero will not be on the team’s ALDS roster either. (They’re all healthy.) So, among those six ex-Yankees relievers, only Miller and Olson will be in the ALDS bullpen. That doesn’t take away from what Logan, Goody, McAllister, and Otero did during the regular season though. The Indians had the AL’s best record and those guys helped make it happen.

The weather could be a factor

From the looks of things, the weather could be a factor for Game 2 in Cleveland on Friday afternoon. Here is the current weather report, via CBS Cleveland:


There is rain in the forecast for Game 2 of the ALDS in Cleveland.
CBS Cleveland

There is rain in the forecast pretty much all day Friday. If Game 2 were to get rained out, it would be played on Saturday, during the scheduled off-day. That would really screw things up for Cleveland’s plan to pitch Kluber on normal rest in a potential Game 5. If Game 2 gets rained out and pushed back a day, Kluber would no longer be lined up for Game 5. He’d have to start on short rest.

Also, a potential Game 2 rainout would change the way Girardi and Francona manage their bullpens, because it would mean Games 2-4 would be played on three consecutive days. The built-in day of rest between Games 2 and 3 would be gone. There’s a chance the weather will throw a wrench in each team’s pitching plans, and have a big impact on this ALDS matchup.

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