Yankees-Indians series preview
Yankees-Indians series preview
ALDS preview & pick: Yankees vs. Indians
In some ways the Yankees and Indians took similar paths to the postseason. Both clubs went to work in the second half, putting up a combined 93-55 record since the All-Star break as of Sunday. But while Cleveland got the job done with pitching, New York bashed its way into October with its bats.
These are the same bats that punished the Tribe during the teams’ six meetings. The Yankees swept the season series, taking all three games in Yankee Stadium in April and getting it done again in Ohio in August.
This American League Division Series opens Thursday in Cleveland with Indians ace C.C. Sabathia taking the mound against New York right-hander Chien-Ming Wang. The first pitch is scheduled for noon ET from Jacobs Field. Here's a preview of how the series will play out.
NEW YORK YANKEES
Why they’ll win: The Yankees have a core of postseason veterans, but it all comes down to Alex Rodriguez, who has a career .280 postseason batting average and just six home runs in 35 playoff appearances. A-Rod put up monster numbers this season but has never been able to translate his regular season success into October.
New York’s offense pulled it from the depths of the American League and made it the best second-half team in baseball. The Yankees averaged almost seven runs per game after the break with Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano providing the push at the plate. The Bronx Bombers beat up Cleveland this year, batting .348 and pounding out 14 home runs in six wins over the Tribe.
The playoff rotation is a bit of a mystery heading into this week. Nineteen-game winner Chien-Ming Wang gets the nod for Thursday’s Game 1 while veteran lefty Andy Pettitte will make his 35th postseason start in Game 2. Fellow veteran Roger Clemens is the club's choice for Game 3 in New York but his various ailments are big question marks.
Because Boston selected the longer series schedule, the Yankees will have to go with another aging arm, Mike Mussina for a possible Game 4. If the series goes the full five games either Wang or Pettitte could see double duty against the Indians. New York’s pitching staff had a collective 2.67 ERA facing Cleveland this summer, holding the team to a .228 batting average.
Why they’ll lose: New York’s experience is also its greatest weakness. Veterans Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Posada have seen their share of postseason wars but are also susceptible to injuries.
The same goes for the aging Clemens, Pettitte, Mussina and closer Mariano Rivera. If these pitchers continue to slide it could put extra pressure on the younger members of the Yankees bullpen to carry the team in the late innings.
Why they’ll win: Cleveland’s 43-29 second half included an amazing run in mid-August through September that pushed it ahead of the rest of the American League Central. The Tribe got it done on both sides of the ball during this streak but it was their rotation that made the biggest difference.
Cleveland had a 3.58 ERA after the break with rotation staples Sabathia and Fausto Carmona leading the way with ERAs under 3.00 in the second half. Third starter Jake Westbrook has a solid 3.44 ERA during this period but doesn’t have the wins to show for it.
The Indians lineup suffered a bit of a slump in the second half of the season, scoring less than five runs per game in September. Designated hitter Travis Hafner is the most intimidating bat in the order along with Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore helping the cause this month.
Why they’ll lose: The Indians struggled against the Yankees this season and don’t have the offense to match the power the Bronx Bombers put in the box. Hurlers Carmona, Westbrook, Paul Byrd and closer Joe Borowski were roughed up by New York in those six losses, a stretch where Cleveland was outscored 47-17 and posted a team 8.19 ERA.
The short series (five games over seven days) will force the Indians to go with Byrd for a possible Game 4 in New York and won’t allow them to give both Carmona and Sabathia a second start. Sabathia, who hasn’t face the Yankees this year, will more than likely get the nod if the series goes the distance, despite his 1-7 career record and an ERA over 7.00 in eight lifetime starts against New York.
Prediction: New York Yankees in five games
Re: Yankees-Indians series preview
Yankees-Indians series preview
Our continuing coverage of the American League Division Series caps off with an interesting matchup between the wild card recipient New York Yankees and the revamped Cleveland Indians. The pitching rotations for both clubs have been released and the meat of their lineups is set for the best out of five series.
The 2007 season has been a nightmare for the Tribe when faced against the Pinstripes. Going head-to-head a total of six times this season, Cleveland was swept by a combined score of 49-17. The ‘over’ was a dominating force, hitting a 4-2 stride.
Can the Indians shift the momentum around when it starts ace pitcher C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21 ERA) in Game 1 on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. EDT? With Cleveland tossing the ball for the first two games at home, the Yanks will look to ground ball specialist slinger Chin-Ming Wang (19-7, 3.70) to level the playing field.
Yankees: Offensively, the Bronx Bombers are exactly as that name implies. Leading the league during the regular season with 929 RBIs (5.7 runs per game) and ranked fourth with 201 homers (1.2 long balls per game), New York has once again charged through the league swinging.
I’m sure you’ve heard but third baseman Alex Rodriguez has had one explosive season. Racking up a career high 156 RBIs, A-Rod capped off the season with a .314 BA, 95 base on balls and 24 stolen bases.
Aside from the king of the crop (Rodriguez), Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter have been immense producers at the plate. Leading the team with a .338 BA, Posada has had a renaissance man of sorts. At 36 years old and 12 years in the league, the veteran catcher has logged the best hitting season of his career.
From the head-to-head table below, you can see just how bad Cleveland has been against the Yanks from just a game-by-game score. But going inside the numbers, New York was able to jump on the Tribe’s pitching staff for a .348 BA with 48 RBIs (eight RBIs per game) and 14 blasts over the fence in the six games that where played.
Not only was the offense unstoppable from a Cleveland standpoint, but the Yankees’ pitching staff was also spectacular. Six starters, including Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte (two hurlers waiting their turn in this playoff series) combined to fling the ball for a low 2.67 ERA. Even with reliever Luis Vizcaino (8-2, 4.30) getting touched for three hits and four earned runs in 1.2 innings of work, the bullpen came together to post a 1.31 ERA in 18.6 innings.
The only gripe I have with New York in this series is with closer Mariano Rivera. As much as Yankee fans and bettors have come to appreciate the shutdown power that Rivera has brought to the table, the fact remains that at 37-year-old, the cutter specialist has become prone to giving up some untimely hits and runs. With 30 saves under his belt this season, Rivera submitted to seven hits and four earned runs in his last seven appearances.
It’s still up in the air, but manager Joe Torre has been alluding to passing up on starting outfielder Hideki Matsui for at least the first game of the series. Matsui has been suffering from a lingering knee injury and received treatment this week to drain fluid from the joint.
Indians: If Cleveland is going to slice New York’s jugular then pitching will be the instrument needed to get the job done. Starters C.C Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are the best combination of punches that the Tribe can muster early on, with Paul Byrd (15-8, 4.59 – Byrd recorded his highest win total since the 2002 season in Kansas City) and Jake Westbrook (6-9, 4.32) the bottom feeders in this rotation (especially against the Yanks). Byrd has actually been effective due to some very high run support over the course of the season.
Overall, the Indians have peppered the ball for a little over five runs per game with 178 homeruns. However, the second-half of the season was a bit disappointing, exposing a weakness from the plate. Although the Tribe closed September out with a 19-9 record, the bats experienced a glitch in production (not a slump). Run production was down slightly from the yearly average, but nothing that should concern the team.
At home, Cleveland has torn the cover off the ball for a blistering .275 BA with 5.2 runs per game. Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez have combined for a .297 BA, while combining to produce 141 RBIs. Martinez has been a monumental ballplayer for the club this season, topping out with the best RBI numbers of career at 114. A .301 BA should be nothing to sneeze at as well.
It’s tough not to factor in the six-game sweep that the Indians endured in 2007 against the Yanks. Yes, the Tribe has seen a roller coaster of a ride through the season, but to tank so bad against one particular team mentally conveys a sense of urgency to the public. As of Tuesday, most books have opened the Yanks as a -116 visiting favorite, with a total set at nine.