You don’t need me to tell you what’s on the line tonight in game five of the ALDS in Cleveland.
It’s C.C. Sabathia vs. Corey Kluber to start the game and who knows where it goes from there. Both teams have solid bullpens and there figures to be a premium on runs, but you never know.
Both starters have something personal on the line. Kluber will be looking to avenge his poor outing in game two, while Sabathia may be auditioning to continue his career next season.
Many times, “little things” decide these “win or go home” games. So here are some “little things” to look out for:
In game four, the Yankees scored seven runs but they left 11 men on base. In the third inning, they only got a run out of a second and third, no one out situation, because Indians third-baseman Giovanny Urshela threw a ball away. In the seventh, the Yankees had runners on second and third with one out but failed to score.
Productive outs have been lacking all season long and it’s something that they hope doesn’t rear it’s ugly head.
You have to figure they won’t get that many base runners against Kluber in game five so if they do get a runner in scoring position, they will have to cash in on the opportunity. The Yankees will also need to take some risks on the bases but they have to be “smart” gambles.
Top Of The Order To ‘Ya
I expect manager Joe Girardi to keep the first four hitters in the lineup the same as in game six. Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez are batting a combined .143 (9/63) with 6 runs scored, 6 RBI’s and 2 home runs.
Gardner (1 run scored) has not had a great series although he could be on the verge of having an impact game. The lineup needs it. Gregorius is “upper-cutting” his swing lately and opposing pitchers are getting him out upstairs on swings and misses and lazy fly balls. He needs to adjust and quickly.
Sanchez is the most dangerous hitter in the Yankee lineup and if he lays off those breaking balls low and away, he could do damage.
Judge is a key here. He has struck out 12 times in 15 at-bats in this series. He cannot afford to be a strikeout machine in this one. Kluber will feed the Yankee rookie a diet of off speed stuff. If he makes a rare mistake, Judge cannot afford to miss it.
Greg Bird has been swinging well and could be an “x-factor” in the five hole. Bird’s left hand bat is just what the Yankees were missing during the regular season. Indians’ Manager Terry Francona may not back down from a second Bird vs. Andrew Miller match-up, but the young first-baseman won’t back down as evidenced by his game winning, home run in game three.
Who’s The DH?
Girardi has a big decision to make. (Sound familiar?) “As far as the DH, there’s just some things I’m gonna continue to look at and make a decision,” the Yankee manager said at the off day press conference.
Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury are a combined 0 for 14 with one walk. Who does Girardi go with or does he come up with an alternate plan like Matt Holliday as some have suggested.
Holliday has not had a whole lot of at-bats lately. Girardi may want to keep the veteran’s right hand bat on the bench to counteract Miller or Tyler Olson in the later innings.
If I had to take a guess, he goes with Ellsbury.
Center Of Attention
John Fogarty had a desire to play “centerfield” but Jason Kipnis may not be singing the same tune.
Indians Mgr. Terry Francona is using Kipnis in center out of necessity (rookie Bradley Zimmer suffered a season ending injury) but he’s a novice playing the position and it showed the other night when he failed to throw out a heads up Todd Frazier on a short fly ball to center.
Kipnis last played the position regularly in 2009 at Arizona State but he’s looked uncomfortable on some fly balls. An outfield mistake in a post season game would be a haunting reminder of last year’s World Series for the Indian fans. In game six, rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin allowed a routine fly ball to drop in for a two out, two run double that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead. It was the pivotal play of game six as Chicago went on to a 9-3 win to even the series and force the seventh game.
The Yankees will try and use his presence to their benefit.
Duo is Due?
The Yankees have done a very good job so far in keeping Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez at bay. (3 for 31 combined)
Lindor’s only hit of the series was his grand slam in game two. Ramirez is 2 for 17 and the at-bats have not been pretty. That doesn’t mean the pair can’t do damage against the Yankee pitchers, including their bullpen.
Cleveland’s defense will play a lot better in game five……Sanchez’ defense has been better of late, the Yankees still have to keep their fingers crossed. An interesting observation that kinda went unnoticed from game four. Sanchez was getting pitches called from the dugout but only for an inning or two….Edwin Encarnacion may return to the lineup which will give the Indians a boost if he does…….
Will 7 Be the Yanks Lucky Number This Time?
For you “karma” lovers. The Yankees have lost game 5 of the 1997 ALDS in Cleveland and lost to the Indians in the 2007 ALDS.
Will the third time, with the year ending digit of 7, be a charm?