Posted on October 10, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
It all comes down to this. After falling behind 2-0, including an excruciating loss in Game 2, the New York Yankees have fought back and forced a Game 5 in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians Wednesday night. There’s been a clear swing in momentum over the past two games, giving the Yankees most of the confidence heading into Game 5 and leaving the Indians facing a great deal of pressure as they come home. Remember, Cleveland had three chances to close out last year’s World Series but failed to do so. The Indians are now in danger of failing in all three chances to finish off the Yankees and head back to the ALCS.
Dropped The Ball
The Indians dropped the ball both figuratively and literally in Game 4. For starters, the team committed four errors, equaling the number of hits they had. As a result, only one of New York’s seven runs was actually earned. On top of that, manager Terry Francona appears to have made a huge mistake in his management of the pitching staff. Instead of going with Josh Tomlin in Game 4, he chose to bring back Trevor Bauer on short rest, despite the Indians leading in the series. Bauer didn’t get the job done and is now likely unavailable to serve as a Plan B for Corey Kluber in Game 5 just in case Kluber struggles as he did in Game 2.
Typically, Kluber going to the mound would be good news for the Indians. But after his performance in Game 2, there has to be some level of concern. Kluber got knocked around by the Yankees, giving up six runs on seven hits before being removed after 2.2 innings. Prior to that start, few Yankees hitters had experienced any kind of success against Kluber. Cleveland’s season now hinges on whether he’s able to bounce back from that start and pitch the way he did last October.
The Yankees will counter with C.C. Sabathia, who pitched well but took the no-decision in Game 2. Sabathia let up four runs over 5.1 innings, but only two of those runs were earned. He hurt himself with three walks but also struck out five. After throwing just 77 pitches, Sabathia appeared capable of pitching further, but Joe Girardi made the decision to put the game in the hands of his bullpen, which promptly gave up a grand slam to Francisco Lindor. The Yankees should feel confident about Sabathia pitching in Game 5, which will be the 20th postseason start of his career. However, the leash may be short, as the bullpen will be fresh and Game 1 starter Sonny Gray should also be available if necessary.
The X-factor for Game 5 could be Edwin Encarnacion, who has not appeared since spraining his ankle while sliding into second base in Game 2. But Francona appears confident that Encarnacion will be able to play in Game 5, although whether he’s able to start the game as a DH or just get one pinch-hitting assignment is unclear. Aside from being one of the best hitters in the game, Encarnacion has seen Sabathia more times than any other Cleveland hitter. He is 15 for 55 (.273) against Sabathia with four doubles and four RBIs. The Indians signed him last winter to be a difference maker, and it appears he’ll get his chance in Game 5.
Despite all the momentum the Yankees appear to have, it’s hard to imagine Kluber having back-to-back outings in which he falls flat. Game 5 will be his chance to gain redemption after Game 2 and he will take advantage of it. The Indians will get a boost from being back home and escape with a close win. Cleveland wins 4-2.