ALDS Game 1 Preview: New York Yankees vs Cleveland Indians
Cleveland looked near unstoppable in the second half, but can the wild card Yankees spoil their playoff dreams in the first round?
The Cleveland Indians absolutely dominated baseball in the second half, winning 45 of their final 59 games to close out 2017. Their 102-60 record was the best in the American League and second best in MLB, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers. Meanwhile, the Yankees held their own in an AL East dogfight that ended with them finishing second in the division and settling for the first AL Wild Card spot. After besting the Minnesota Twins in a one-game playoff, they now face a huge playoff hurdle in this Cleveland team.
The Indians took the season series versus the Yankees five games to two. In those seven games, they put up 31 runs while allowing just 20. In their most recent meeting at the end of August, Cleveland came out on top in a three-game sweep of New York, outscoring the Bombers 17-7.
Game 1 Starters – Sonny Gray (RHP) vs Trevor Bauer (RHP)
Sonny Gray finished 2017 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 162.1 innings pitched. The righty came to New York in a trade deadline deal from the Athletics, and since then he has pitched to a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts for the Yankees. His 4.58 September ERA was the second highest he posted in any month on the season. In three starts against Cleveland this year, Gray allowed nine earned runs in 16.2 innings, striking out 14 and walking six.
Bauer was the owner of a 4.19 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 176.1 innings pitched this season. After an especially bad start to the season, he seemed to settle down in August and September, posting a 2.31 and 2.90 ERA in each of those months, respectively. His 10.00 K/9 this year was by far a career best, over two strikeouts per nine better than his 2016 rate. Bauer has faced the Yankees twice this season, allowing just two earned runs in 13 innings, striking out 11 and walking six.
|Yankees Lineup||Home Runs
|Brett Gardner, LF||21||.264||.350|
|Aaron Judge, RF||52||.284||.422|
|Gary Sanchez, C||33||.278||.345|
|Didi Gregorius, SS||25||.287||.318|
|Starlin Castro, 2B||16||.300||.338|
|Greg Bird, 1B||9||.190||.288|
|Chase Headley, DH||12||.273||.352|
|Jacoby Ellsbury, CF||7||.264||.348|
|Todd Frazier, 3B||11||.222||.365|
|Indians Lineup||Home Runs
|Francisco Lindor, SS||33||.273||.337|
|Austin Jackson, LF||7||.318||.387|
|Jose Ramirez, 2B||29||.318||.374|
|Edwin Encarnacion, DH||38||.258||.377|
|Jay Bruce, RF||7||.248||.331|
|Carlos Santana, 1B||23||.259||.363|
|Jason Kipnis, CF||12||.232||.309|
|Giovanny Urshela, 3B||1||.224||.262|
|Roberto Perez, C||8||.207||.291|
Who’s Hot, and Who’s Not
Aaron Judge finished the season just as strongly as he started it, posting a 1.352 OPS in September with 15 home runs and 32 RBIs. He continued his late-season success into the wild-card matchup against the Twins, going 2 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs. Jacoby Ellsbury picked up his production late in the season, putting up a .436 OBP in September, the second-best rate on the team behind Judge.
Chase Headley’s OPS in the final month of the season dropped a tick below .700 at .699. The third baseman picked up just three hits in his last 18 at-bats of the year, none of them for extra bases. Didi Gregorius’s .245 batting average in September was his worst in a month by far. He finished the season going 3-16 in his final four games, all singles.
Jose Ramirez absolutely dominated in the final month of the season, putting up a 1.324 OPS with nine home runs and 21 RBIs in 22 games. Of his 33 hits on the month, 22 were for extra bases. He also only struck out five times in 93 plate appearances. Edwin Encarnacion had a hot month as well, leading the team in RBIs with 29, belting seven home runs and five doubles in 27 games.
Francisco Lindor picked up just four hits in his final 22 at-bats on the season. Besides Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela was the only Cleveland hitter with at least 50 at-bats to have an OPS below .700 in September at .698.
Prediction: Indians 6 – 4 Yankees
While the Yankees offense more than proved what they are capable of in Tuesday’s AL Wild Card Game, Trevor Bauer has been especially effective against the Bombers when he has faced them this season. Meanwhile, Gray has staggered toward the end of the season, and this slugging Indians lineup could give him a run for his money. I think both teams go to their bullpens early, with Cleveland’s being much more rested than New York’s after Severino’s early exit against the Twins.
Where to Watch
Today’s game will start at 7:30 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on FS1.