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ALDS Notebook: Yankees vs. Indians

   10-13-2017

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New York wins the series, 3-2.

 

Out of gas

After an incredible display of regular-season dominance that culminated with winning 33 of their final 37 games, bringing more than 2 million fans to the ballpark for the first time in 10 years, and going into the postseason with as much confidence as possible, the Indians inexplicably lost their mojo after winning their first two Division Series games. The Yankees beat them -- and they beat themselves -- three times over the next four days as their offense, defense and pitching all faltered. The Indians batted just .171 and struck out 61 times over 47 innings in the series. In two starts, Corey Kluber, the leading candidate for the Cy Young Award, pitched a total of 6 1/3 innings and gave up nine earned runs (12.79 ERA) on 10 hits, including four home runs. They made nine errors in the series, including seven in the final two games. "Sometimes you don't swing the bat," manager Terry Francona said. "That's part of it. But we did some things in this series that I don't think were characteristic of our team. We made some errors, kicked the ball around a little bit." Players weren't entertaining some of the post-game theories about the club perhaps having expended too much of its winning energy in the regular season. "What are you supposed to do, stop at 99?" relief pitcher Andrew Miller asked. "They outplayed us."


 

American League Division Series, Game 5
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Oct. 11, 2017

Klubot ready

Considering he allowed six runs on seven hits and a walk over 2 2/3 innings in Game 2, Indians ace Corey Kluber sees plenty of room for improvement. Asked during the pre-game press conference what he needed do better this time around, the no-nonsense, 31-year-old right-hander from Alabama put it bluntly: “Everything. I didn't pitch well, didn't have good command, didn't throw the ball where I wanted to.” Kluber was 18-7 during the season with an MLB-leading 2.25 ERA and 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings this season, a performance that made him one of the three finalists for the 2017 Players Choice Award as AL Outstanding Pitcher. The pitcher known as Klubot wasn't giving much credence to theories about additional pressure pitching a deciding game. “It's still the game of baseball,” Kluber said. “You've got to go out there and you've got to, as a pitcher, execute your pitches. And hitters are going to try to take advantage of your mistakes. It boils down to it's still the same game, still 27 outs, all that kind of stuff. There's a little more, maybe, emotion, things like that. But when it comes down to it, it's still the same game.”

Solving Aroldis

If the deciding Game 5 of their Division Series is close in the late innings, the Indians know they're likely in for a battle with a familiar nemesis– Aroldis Chapman. But the Indians hitters are familiar with the left-handed, flame-throwing Cuban closer, having scouted and faced Chapman as the closer for the Cubs in the World Series last year. They also saw him once during the regular season before his two outings this series. They have four hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings in the ALDS against Chapman, but also six strikeouts. “It's a different at-bat than you'll see versus most pitchers,” Jason Kipnis said. “Not most pitchers are throwing that velo. … You just have to pay attention to what he's trying to do that night. Is he in love with his fastball because it's hitting 103, or is he trying to establish a little bit of a slider? You watch what he's doing and he's just not a guy that you literally take any direction with. You don't try to pull. You don't try to spray. You literally just try to see the ball over the plate and get the barrel to it. Any effort you put into your swing is only going to create a longer swing, so you've really just got to worry about contact more than trying to hit a solo shot or anything like that.”

An aberration

You just don't win 33 of your final 37 games to reach the postseason playing as poorly as the Indians did in Game 4, so you can probably consider that result an aberration, an outlier, in your analysis for the deciding game on Wednesday night in Cleveland. The Indians struck out 14 times and committed four errors leading to six unearned runs and left New York with their first two-game losing streak since the Red Sox beat them in consecutive games on Aug. 22-23. "You could say one thing led to another," center fielder Jason Kipnis told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. "It's hard to win a ballgame when you dig a hole that deep by giving away runs and at-bats and not making adjustments.” But that's uncharacteristic of the Indians. "We don't do that very often," Trevor Bauer said. "We make other teams beat us.” One thing that's even more unprecedented for Cleveland in recent weeks than a two-game losing streak, however, is a three-game losing streak, so the Indians were still feeling pretty good about their chances. "We have a way of bouncing back," Kipnis said. "We always have. You don't have our kind of record over the last two months without learning how to bounce back after a tough time or dealing with adversity.”

Edwin probable

Manager Terry Francona told the media Edwin Encarnacion would likely return to the Indians'starting lineup as designated hitter for winner-take-all Game 5. "I think so. He's been hitting off the machine already. He'll do some running during our workout and we'll gauge where he is. But I think he's going to be OK." The Dominican-born slugger hit 38 home runs and knocked in 107 in his first season with Cleveland.

Down 0-2 ... and confident 

When the Yankees left Cleveland with two losses after blowing an 8-3 lead in Game 2, the odds seemed stacked against them. But the Yankees players haven't been affected by pressure associated with elimination games. In fact, they are now 3-0 this postseason when facing elimination. CC Sabathia, who started Game 2 at Progressive Field, was confident the Yankees would return to Cleveland. “This is a team that I felt like every time, whether it's in a game or coming up through the season, we had tough times or backs against the wall, I felt like we responded really well,” Sabathia said. “So I didn't see why we couldn't go home and play well and end up back here.” Manager Joe Girardi credited the team's core leadership, makeup of the team and “the belief that a lot of our young players and the energy that they bring every day.” Now the Yankees will have a chance to do what only six other clubs have accomplished in the Division Series – win three straight games after being down 0-2 and move onto the ALCS.

Sabathia to start pivotal Game 5 

Pitching in elimination games is nothing new to CC Sabathia. Since joining the Yankees, Sabathia has taken the mound three times in win-or-go-home games, with the team going 2-1. “I think just with age, pitching for so long, been in pretty much any situation you can be in,” Sabathia said on Tuesday. “So being able to go out and take the ball and just be myself, I'm looking forward to that and hopefully that results in a good outing.” The 2007 Cy Young award winner pitched 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, giving up three hits and four runs (two earned). He struck out five and was pulled after just 77 pitches. “I'm just glad I get the opportunity to participate and not have to watch,” Sabathia said. “Because watching these games, you'll get an ulcer. But pitching in them is a lot more fun.”

Frazier has a pinstripe moment

Growing up in New Jersey, seven-year MLB veteran Todd Frazier donned the Yankee pinstripes as a kid. He was at Yankee Stadium in October 1995 for the memorable 15th inning walk-off home run by Jim Leyritz. On Monday night, Frazier had his own memorable Yankees moment when he drove in the first two runs of Game 4 with a two-out double in the second inning. “It's still a little bit [surreal] because I can picture myself in the stands right now, cheering the team on every pitch and every at-bat,” Frazier said after the game. “I know the feeling of both, and it's pretty cool.” In the postseason, the native of Toms River, N.J., has gone 4 for 12 at the plate, scoring two runs.

Kahnle another weapon out of ‘pen

Acquired with Todd Frazier and David Robertson at the July trade deadline from the White Sox, Tommy Kahnle re-joined the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2010.  He joined a stacked Yankees bullpen, and has been used in a variety of situations from multi-inning relief to right-handed specialist to specific matchups. Pitching in his first postseason this year, Kahnle has not given up a hit in five innings over three games. He has struck out six of 15 batters faced, and twice has been inserted in multi-inning relief. A question mark when he was acquired, Kahnle has proven that he can provide more than one inning of relief. “The one thing that we weren't sure about was multiple innings with him,” Girardi said after Game 4. “He's responded pretty well with that lately. Over these two months, we've learned a lot about him.” He uses a fastball that averages about 98 mph, and couples the heater with a slider and changeup. Girardi used him to close out the Game 4 win over the final two innings, and Kahnle became the first reliever in postseason history to record a save by striking out five of six batters faced. 

 


 

American League Division Series, Game 4
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Oct. 9, 2017

Still time for Miller

Towering left-hander Andrew Miller has been helping to revolutionize postseason relief pitching the past couple years with the Indians, leaving the comfort of a set, late-inning role to pitch his club out of jams in tight situations, pitching multiple innings at any point in a game. In classic form, he came into Game 3 in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and induced a pop-up from the Yankees' Starlin Castro to get out of the jam and keep the game tied, 0-0. But on his second pitch of the seventh, his second straight slider, this time catching a little too much of the plate, left-handed rookie first baseman Greg Bird drove it high into the upper deck in right field at Yankee Stadium. “It stinks," Miller said. “I'm the guy that lost a playoff game today. I feel good about the way I'm throwing the ball, but I made a mistake both in location and what I was trying to do. You try to learn from it and move on.” Left-handed hitters batted .164 against him and the only extra-base hit he's allowed to a left-hander before Game 3 was a home run by the Dodgers' Cody Bellinger on June 13. “He's one of the best, if not the best, relievers in our game," said Bird, who knows Miller well from his days with the Yankees. “I've never faced him until this series, but I've seen it on our side and seen how good he is. Really, the respect I have for him on and off the field -- I don't know if there's anybody like him."

Bitter sweet

Carlos Carrasco watched with a cast on his broken pitching hand while the Indians reached the World Series and extended it to seven games before losing to the Cubs last season, so he had a lot of extra time to think about his first postseason start. While his start in Game 3 on Sunday didn't match his dream of pitching Cleveland to a sweep of the Yankees, the 30-year-old Venezuelan demonstrated his mastery. Carrasco, who tied for the AL lead with 18 wins and had a career-best 3.29 ERA in the regular season, struck out seven Yankees hitters over 5 2/3 shutout innings, allowing just three hits and three walks. The Indians will be confident turning to the right-hander again. "My fastball command, my changeup, my slider were good," Carrasco said of his 85-pitch effort. "I was trying to find my curveball, but I didn't use it too much today. My slider was very good." He also passed the gut check of making his postseason debut in a potential close-out game at Yankee Stadium with flying colors. "The first inning, I felt a little bit like, 'OK, what is this?' After that, I felt great. I just tried to control myself when I pitched and think about every pitch that I was going to throw. I know in the postseason, I can't make a mistake on any pitch."

Bauer redux

Considering the stakes, Trevor Bauer turned in the best pitching performance of his career in Game 1, when he held the Yankees hitless for 5 1/3 innings and stifled them with his big curve for 6 1/3 shutout innings. He struck out eight batters and allowed just two hits. This will be the third time the 26-year-old right-hander will be pitching on three days' rest this season, but it turns out that Bauer would do it that way all the time if he had his druthers. "I consider this normal rest for me,'' said Bauer, who was also 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA against the Yankees during the regular season. "If I could draw it out personally, this is how I'd pitch every time. Take my normal two days' recovery after my start and then do my day-before routine today and then roll it out there tomorrow. So I'm feeling very confident where I'm at.''

Sevy takes mound in elimination game 

Right-hander Luis Severino will start on Monday for the Yankees, as the team once again faces elimination as they try to extend the series. Severino, who started the Wild Card game for New York, said in his first postseason start that he learned to “breathe and think before every pitch.” The 23-year old put together his finest big league season in 2017 – his 2.98 ERA was the franchise's lowest qualifying ERA since David Cone and Andy Pettitte in 1997.

Bird's the word 

After spending over 100 games on the disabled list this season with an ankle injury, Greg Bird knew he wanted to make it back in time for the Yankees' postseason run. How'd he know he would make it back?  “I bet on myself,” Bird said after Sunday's game. “And I knew I could come back and be a part of this. It's a great group we have.” His home run in Game 3 was the game's only run, powering the Yankees and extending the club's season. A seventh-inning blast off feared Cleveland reliever – and former Yankee teammate – Andrew Miller brought the Yankee Stadium crowd to their feet, with arms flapping to resemble a bird. “I'm not ready to be done playing,” Bird said. “And I don't think the rest of the team is.”

Chapman closes it out 

After David Robertson issued a one-out walk in the eighth, Joe Girardi went to get him. Cue Wake Up, by Rage Against the Machine. Enter, Aroldis Chapman, who despite only one save over one inning in his postseason career, was ready for the challenge. Thirty of his 34 pitches on Sunday were clocked at 100 mph or faster. “I think he was great again,” manager Joe Girardi said. Chapman has been used in three games so far this postseason, pitching 4 2/3 innings. He has struck out nine of the 20 batters he's faced. 


 

American League Division Series, Game 3
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Oct. 8, 2017

Invincible Indians

The Indians, who are looking for a three-game sweep over the Yankees in Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, are feeling a little invincible these days, having closed the season with a 33-4 run that included an unprecedented 22-game winning streak. So it wasn't a huge surprise that they found a way to win a wild Game 2 after falling behind by five runs. “Even at 8-3, we felt like just get within striking distance and we'll find a way to win,” closer Cody Allen told Sports Illustrated. “It's true belief, not the fake stuff you hear guys talk about all the time.”

Tanaka Time

Masahiro Tanaka will be taking the mound in The Bronx tonight for only his second career postseason appearance, when he tries to extend the Yankees' ALDS series against the potent Cleveland Indians.  Pressure?  It comes with the territory for all Major Leaguers this time of year.  “As far as feeling the pressure going into [Sunday's] game, obviously, yes, there is pressure, but that can't put me away from what I need to do on the mound,” stated Tanaka through an interpreter.  “(They) can run and they have force. Their powerful lineup can force a wide range of offense,” Tanaka added.  “What I have to do the most is to make as many good pitches as possible. I have to throw with belief.”  In 15 home starts this season, he is 9-5 with a 3.22 ERA, and 13-12 overall with a 4.74 ERA. In his only previous postseason action, two years ago, Tanaka gave up two runs in five innings of a tough 3-0 loss to Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel.

Cookie Time

Carlos Carrasco, who was unavailable with a broken right hand during last year's pennant run, will pitch for the Indians and Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Carrasco, a 30-year-old right hander from Venezuela who tied for the AL lead with 18 wins and posted a career-best 3.29 ERA, was anxious to finally take the ball in October.  "Last year my team went to the postseason and World Series. I was with them, but I couldn't pitch because of my hand,” he said. “But now I'm available to enjoy my team this year. This is my first postseason. I want to enjoy it."

Mending Edwin 

The Indians haven't had much bad luck the last month or so considering the 22-game winning streak and locking down home-field advantage through the AL postseason, so it was a tense moment in the bottom of the second inning in Game 2 when Edwin Encarnacion twisted his ankle returning to second base and fell in a heap. He had sprained his ankle and needed to be helped off the field. By Saturday, the slugger who hit 38 home runs in his first season with Cleveland was walking around with clutches and wearing a walking boot. "There's no fracture, it's just the ligaments and I'm going to be day-to-day," Encarnacion told Cleveland.com. That doesn't sound great, perhaps, but manager Terry Francona was pleased with Encarnacion's progress in less than 24 hours. “He is, I would say, I don't know if remarkably better is a good word, but pretty close,” Francona said before the Indians held an optional workout in The Bronx. “He's doing much better. I don't think he's going to start [Sunday], but he's not been ruled out, either. So we'll take our time and allow to him to continue to get treatment.” Michael Brantley is his likely replacement at designated hitter for Game 3 at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night.

Brantley's Back

After missing the postseason last season following shoulder surgery, outfielder Michael Brantley was thrust quickly back into action in Game 2 on Friday night when Edwin Encanarcion jammed his ankle in the first inning. Manager Terry Francona had been considering giving Brantley his first outfield start in Game 3, but that changed when Encarnacion got hurt, so he was considered the likely designated hitter instead. "I've been doing a lot before the series even started," Brantley said. "Just making sure what I could handle and what I couldn't. Make sure we had our limitations. Everything's been going great, I'm very happy where I'm at right now." The athletic 30-year-old batted .299 in 90 regular season games with nine homers and made his second All-Star Game appearance.

American League Division Series, Game 2
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Oct. 6, 2017

Bauer Power

Throwing a no-hitter never crossed Trevor Bauer's mind, even though he had one going for 5 1/3 innings in the Indians' 4-0 win in Game 1 of their ALDS against the hard-hitting Yankees on Thursday night. In all, the 26-year-old right-hander kept New York off balance for 6 1/3 shutout innings with his big curve, striking out eight and allowing just two hits. He held the Yankees' Nos. 2-3 hitters particularly off balance with the breaking pitch, holding the powerful pair to 0-6 with four strikeouts. Noting the Yankees “have a very dangerous lineup,” Bauer explained afterward that his “mindset was to go out there like a closer in the first inning and put up a scoreless inning at all costs. And then if I was still in the game, do it again in the second inning and the third and on until I was taken out of the game. So no-hitter, ten hitter, or whatever, that was the mindset. I never really strayed from that.” Establishing command of the breaking ball early was a key, according to both Bauer and pitching Mickey Calloway. “My curveball was good from the start,” Bauer said. “I've had quite a few starts this year where I spray curveballs around and I can't locate it where I need to until maybe the third or fourth inning. So I did a little bit more work on that in between starts. I was able to throw that pitch pretty much from the outset.”

The ultimate stopper

Veteran lefty C.C. Sabathia (14-5 with 3.69 ERA in regular season) has only played for three major-league clubs in his 17-year career. On Friday, he'll try to help the Yankees even up the series against his first club, Cleveland, where he spent the first eight years of his career. “Obviously, it's exciting to come back to Cleveland,” Sabathia said. “I kind of grew up here. To be able to pitch in the playoff game here is going to a lot of fun, even if it's on the other side.” The pitcher that won the 2007 Cy Young award with the Indians has successfully evolved over the past several years. As he has lost velocity on his fastball, Sabathia has pivoted away from the heater and has started to throw his cutter at a higher rate. This season, he has relied on his fastball 23.5 percent of the time, down from 56.3 percent in 2015, while his cutter and slider numbers are up. The crafty veteran has also played the important role of stopping the bleeding following a Yankee loss this season. Pitching as a stopper the 37-year old Is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 10 starts. Since he was activated from the 10-day disabled list in mid-August, Sabathia has found his stride, going 6-2 with a 2.91 ERA in the final eight starts of the regular season. A postseason stalwart, Sabathia has made 18 career playoff starts and is 9-5 in those starts.

NOT insulted

Indians ace Corey Kluber, a finalist for the 2017 Players Choice Award as the AL's Outstanding Pitcher, wasn't bothered by not getting the ball in Game 1. Manager Terry Francona explained the strategy involved to him and it made sense. “If you're out there worrying about which game it is … It's going to end up taking away from what you're trying to do out there, which is get guys out,” said Kluber, who went 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA this season. “The Bronx Bombers aren't particularly anxious to face him in spring training, no less Game 2 of an ALDS. Kluber was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA this season against the Yankees, who combined have a .155 average with just three home runs and nine RBIs over 155 career at-bats against the 31-year-old right-hander. Todd Frazier, who came to the Yankees from the AL Central, probably saw Kluber most often recently. “Basically he's got a really good cutter. He's got a mid-90s fastball and a curveball, too. And a changeup,” the veteran third baseman said. “So if you're thinking of all those, you're going to be in trouble. So you've got to basically find a spot and not miss.” Said Brett Gardner, “The last time we faced him he obviously had his way with us. He's one of the best — if not the best pitcher in the league — and over the course of the series we're going to have to face him sometime, so we just need to come out (Friday) and have better at-bats and get a little bit going.”

Dellin deals

The Yankees' bullpen carried the team through the Wild Card game, combining to pitch 8 2/3 innings. An important performer who didn't see action in the survive-and-advance game, Dellin Betances, made his 2017 postseason debut on Thursday night in Game 1 of the DS. He worked a perfect inning, striking out all three batters. “I haven't felt like that in a while,” Betances said. “My breaking ball was sharp and my fastball was good as well.” Betances, who has played a key role in the New York ‘pen for several years, has now struck out seven of 10 batters he has faced over two postseason stints (other: 2015 AL Wild Card Game). Overall, the righty power pitcher has struck out 100 opponents for four straight years, just the fifth reliever in baseball history to accomplish the overpowering mark.

Miller and more

The Indians' wildly successful use of left-hander Andrew Miller at any time in a game and for multiple innings on the way to the World Series in 2016 likely helped change relief pitching strategies going forward in postseason play. The Yankees plan to continue deploying David Robertson in a similar fashion, as they did in the wild card game. The Red Sox plan to use David Price in that role and he did well pitching out of the bullpen in multiple-inning situations in September when he came off the disabled list. The Indians (like the Yankees) still have one of the top pens in baseball with Miller, the 2016 ALCS MVP, Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, Cody Allen and Tyler Olson, who collectively allowed just 82 earned runs over 280 2/3 innings, striking out 349 batters and walking just 80. This year, they add power-pitching starters Mike Clevinger and Danny Salazar to the mix.

Feeling Bruce's bruises

The Yankees themselves tried to trade for Jay Bruce after the outfielder cleared waivers, so they were stung when the left-handed slugger from Beaumont, Texas, drove in three runs against them with a performance that included a huge two-run homer in the fourth inning, a double and a sacrifice fly. Bruce, 30, hasn't had much time to reflect on the trade considering he's been preparing for the postseason with the Indians while taking an active interest in his Hurricane Irma-devastated hometown. “I feel like I don't have time. Every single next day really demands your full attention and preparation,” he said. “I couldn't have fallen into a better situation. I know it sounds cliche, but I just want to do my part, man. And this has been a blast so far.”

A-A RON stars in crowded outfield

Aaron Hicks has forced his way onto the field with his stellar defensive play and improved offensive numbers. In Game 1, Hicks broke up the Trevor Bauer's no-hit bid with a double to left center. A former first-round pick by the Twins who was traded to the Yankees before the 2016 season, Hicks batted .266 with a career-high 15 homers and 51 RBIs over 301 at-bats this year. Defensively, he tied for seventh in baseball with 15 total defensive runs saved. In late September, the switch-hitting 28-year-old ​robbed a grand slam​ off the bat of the Rays' Wilson Ramos, which teammate Chase Headley remarked to the New York Post: “You're not gonna see a better play than that. I'm not gonna say it's the best play I've ever seen, but I haven't seen many that are better than that.”


 

American League Division Series, Game 1 
New York Yankees vs. Cleveland Indians
Oct. 5, 2017

The Matchup

The Indians and Yankees are squaring off for the fourth time in the postseason, with Cleveland holding an 8-7 lead in games won. The Indians took down New York in both the 1997 and 2007 AL Division Series, while the Yankees won the 1998 AL Championship Series on the way to their 24th World Series title. This season, the only one involving the current cast of players, Cleveland took five of seven games, including a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees advanced to the DS by taking down the Twins in the Wild Card Game on Tuesday, 8-4. The Indians, winners of the Central division for the second consecutive year, largely handled any competition from Central challengers as they won the division by 17 games. Highlighting Cleveland's 102-win season was the team's record 22-game win streak in the second half.

Bullpen Battle

When David Robertson came in to pitch 3 1/3 innings of shutout relief for the Yankees beginning in the third inning of the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night, it reminded fans of the way the Indians used former Yankees reliever Andrew Miller so successfully during the 2016 postseason. Last year at the trade deadline, Cleveland acquired Miller from New York and he was integral in the Indians' playoff run, pitching 19 1/3 innings in 10 games. Manager Terry Francona called Miller's number in high-stress situations, ranging from a tough spot in the fifth inning to closing out games. Miller started the 2016 postseason with eight scoreless appearances en route to a 2-0 record with one save and five holds – overall a 1.40 ERA and 30 strikeouts, compared to just five walks. Now, it appears, Yankees manager Joe Girardi is prepared to use Robertson in a similar role to that which Miller played last fall. “When Joe calls on me to go out there and pitch, I'm going to go pitch,” Robertson said. “If it's the second or third inning and that's when I'm needed to help us win a ballgame, that's what I'll pitch. It doesn't matter to me, I just want to win another World Series.” 

The Curve

Indians starter Trevor Bauer is 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA overall this season but in his last 14 starts he's 10-1 with a 2.60 ERA.  The 26-year-old Californian, finishing his fourth full season, shrugged off various possible reasons for the second-half improvement and attributed his improved recent performance to “regression” to the mean. He'll rely on a slider he's used a little more often recently and his trademark curveball, which he taught himself as a 10-year-old kid watching one of his favorite pitchers, former all-star Barry Zito. “Zito was my favorite pitcher for a good long time, pretty much until Lincecum came into the league. Obviously, if you know Barry Zito, you know the big curveball. So that was kind of my inspiration for learning how to throw it. Tried to pattern that pitch off of him as much as possible … But that's a pitch I've been throwing, I guess now, for like 16 years and always been my go-to pitch. It's the first breaking ball I learned, so that's always been the one I lean on.”

Mystique & Aura

Before the 2001 World Series, then D-Backs pitcher Curt Schilling famously scoffed at the notion the Yankees, who have won the World Series 27 times, carry a “mystique and aura” about them in the postseason because of the their unparalleled tradition of winning. “Those are dancers in a night club. Those are not things we concern ourselves with on the ballfield,” he said. But the Yankees' ALDS Game 1 starter, Sonny Gray, sensed something a little bit different upon his arrival at the July 31 trade deadline after spending the first four and a half seasons of his career with the A's. “Yeah, from the moment I stepped foot in the clubhouse, I was hoping we would eventually get into the postseason … I got that vibe right away, right when I -- my first day in New York, I got that vibe. And now we're here, and we're ready to go.”

Bullpens, Part II

Statistically speaking, both the Yankees and Indians bullpens rank among the best in the majors. The two teams are in the top five in bullpen earned run average (CLE – 2.89, first; NYY – 3.34, third), hits allowed (NYY – 402, fewest; CLE – 409, second fewest), strikeouts per nine innings pitched (NYY – 10.9, first; CLE – 10.1, fourth) and WHIP (CLE –1.140, first; NYY – 1.165, third).

Trading Places

What a difference a year makes for the Yankees. Sellers at the 2016 trade deadline, the front office shipped off Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Carlos Beltrán, Iván Nova and Tyler Clippard for prospects. This year, the Yankees were back to their old ways, looking to improve a club within the reach of the postseason. The Yankees made moves to shore up the pitching staff, adding starter Sonny Gray from Oakland and hard-throwing relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson from Chicago. New York also brought in veteran third baseman Todd Frazier – who grew up 80 miles south of the Bronx in Toms River, N.J. – for the push to reach the wild card game. Cleveland, buyers for the second straight year, added Jay Bruce from the Mets in August prior to the waiver trade deadline. Bruce was elated about joining a contending club, saying that he wanted “to be a part of something bigger than myself.” He hit seven homers for the Indians after his arrival.

#AllRise

As an opening act, Aaron Judge brought fans to their feet with an MLB rookie-record 52 home runs in the regular season. He wasn't done yet – not by a long shot. In the survive-and-advance AL Wild Card Game, Judge blasted a two-run home run, the first rookie to hit a home run in the postseason for the Yankees since Hideki Matsui in 2003, and was just the third rookie to hit a postseason home run in his debut (others: Elston Howard,1955; Shane Spencer, 1998). Fans chanted MVP! MVP! MVP! as he rounded the bases. #AllRise indeed.

Check out our #MLBPlayers411 series for more information on some of the players participating in the postseason: 

New York Yankees:

Chad Green

Gary Sanchez

Luis Severino

Ronald Torreyes

Aaron Judge

Cleveland Indians:

Tyler Olson

Trevor Bauer

Jose Ramirez

Edwin Encarnacion

Michael Brantley



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