After dropping Game 1 to the Indians, the New York Yankees face an uphill climb in order to make it past the best team in the American League.
The New York Yankees learned early on in Game 1 of the American League Division Series that the Cleveland Indians in postseason play are a whole new animal.
Despite coming back in Tuesday’s Wild Card game against the Minnesota Twins down 3-0 in the first inning, a rally against the team with the best run differential in the league and a lights-out bullpen felt unconquerable. And it was.
Now, as the Yankees head into Game 2 trailing in the series, they face a task that seems to be even more insurmountable than a come-from-behind win in the series opener was: coming back after dropping Game 1. It’s been done before, sure, but the way Indians’ manager Terry Francona structured his ALDS rotation has the odds in his favor.
The reigning AL manager of the year opted to start his number two starter, Trevor Bauer, in Game 1 while holding off the Cy Young front-runner Corey Kluber for Friday night. It was a decision many questioned until Bauer revealed how nasty his curveball could be in the National spotlight.
Against a Yankees’ lineup which led the Major Leagues with 241 home runs and finished second in with 858 runs scored and 5.30 runs per game, Bauer fanned eight over 6.2 innings of two-hit, shutout baseball. Four of his eight strikeouts, which tied Todd Stottlemyre (1998) for the most strikeouts against the Yankees in an ALDS Game 1, came against MVP candidate Aaron Judge.
Judge's ruling: Trevor Bauer is really good. pic.twitter.com/xN37L0AbEn
— WaitingForNextYear (@WFNYCLE) October 6, 2017
He was no easy task to overcome, but with the Klubot looming in Games 2 and 5, sending a message to Bauer and the Indians was a major key to taking the series from the pennant frontrunners.
Kluber pitched twice against the Yankees this season. The first came on Aug. 3 at Progressive Field, where he registered a complete game featuring 11 strikeouts and just three hits. The second came on Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium, where fanned seven over eight innings of two-run ball. Overall, he is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA against the Bombers this season with 18 strikeouts in 17 innings.
Jacoby Ellsbury seems to be the only Yankees’ hitter with success against Cleveland’s ace, going 5-for-19 lifetime with two doubles.
This is why New York could ill-afford a loss in the ALDS opener. Now that they recorded one, they’ll have to go 3-1 against Kluber, Carlos Carrasco (18-6, 3.28 ERA), Josh Tomlin and then Kluber again in order to advance to the American League Championship Series.
Everything about this Game 2 matchup tells us that the likelihood this series goes to the Bronx with the Yankees down 2-0 seems pretty large, but not guaranteed. Manager Joe Girardi is going with his showstopper CC Sabathia and praying that his offense can finally get Kluber out of the game and into a bullpen that won’t incorporate Andrew Miller into the second game of the series.
These are no Twins. These are no Wild Card competitors. If the Yankees want to be the best team, they have to beat the best team. Starting with one of the game’s best hurlers.