Terry Francona made liberal use of his bullpen weapons while guiding the Cleveland Indians to the World Series last season, and Joe Girardi took that philosophy a step further while guiding the New York Yankees to the American League Division Series with a win in the wild-card game Tuesday. Girardi will try to find a way to beat Francona and the best team in the AL when the Yankees visit the top-seeded Indians in Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday.
Girardi got 26 outs from his bullpen after yanking starter Luis Severino with one out and three runs in in the first inning Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, and Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman proved to be up to the task as the Yankees pulled out an 8-4 victory. “If you’re playing four games in five nights, it’s really difficult to do,” Girardi told reporters of leaning heavily on the relievers. “You can do it probably two of the games of the four, but you can’t do it back to back. And a lot of times you can — if you were to do it on Game 2, you probably can’t even do it on Game 3, even with the off-day in between.” Francona rode left-hander Andrew Miller hard in the 2016 postseason and won’t be afraid to do so again, though the Indians might have an even better team in 2017 after finishing the regular season with 33 wins in their last 37 games. Cleveland surprised some by choosing Trevor Bauer to start Game 1 over ace Corey Kluber, while New York is expected to counter with Sonny Gray.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees RH Sonny Gray (10-12, 3.55 ERA) vs. Indians RH Trevor Bauer (17-9, 4.19)
Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics prior to the trade deadline but struggled some in September, surrendering nine home runs in 35 1/3 innings. The Vanderbilt product, who lost at Cleveland in his New York debut on Aug. 3, was ripped for six runs on six hits - two homers - over 4 2/3 innings in his final regular-season outing on Saturday. Gray is 0-1 in two career postseason starts despite a 2.08 ERA.
Bauer aided the Indians’ sprint to the finish by going 9-1 with a 2.42 ERA over his last 13 games (12 starts) and allowed two runs in 13 innings over his final two starts. Two of those 13 outings came against New York on Aug. 4 and Aug. 30, and the UCLA product breezed to wins in both by scattering two runs over 13 frames and striking out 11. Bauer, who gets the start over Cy Young candidate Kluber so that Kluber can come back on regular rest in a potential Game 5 or Game 1 of the ALCS, went 0-2 with a 5.27 ERA in five games (four starts) during the 2016 postseason.
1.Yankees RF Aaron Judge set a rookie record with 52 home runs in the regular season and homered in Tuesday’s wild-card game.
2. Cleveland 2B/3B Jose Ramirez hit .407 from Sept. 1 through the end of the regular season.
3. New York’s bullpen recorded 13 strikeouts Tuesday, which ties for the most all-time by a bullpen in a playoff game.
PREDICTION: Indians 4, Yankees 3