Cleveland Indians: Road to the World Series begins with a tough adversary

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Manager Terry Francona
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 01: Manager Terry Francona /

The Cleveland Indians are now set to face the New York Yankees in the ALDS. Nothing comes easy this time of year, and this series will be no exception.

With the New York Yankees’ 8-4 win over the Minnesota Twins, they have secured a trip to Cleveland. On the other end, the Cleveland Indians await what promises to be a very intense series.

Nothing comes easy this time of year, and the ALDS will be no exception.

Regular season comparisons

Cleveland Indians

  • 102-60 (AL Central champions, best record in the AL)
  • 818 runs scored (sixth in MLB), 564 runs allowed (best in MLB), +254 run differential
  • 163 home runs allowed (best in MLB)
  • 2.89 bullpen ERA (best in MLB)

New York Yankees

  • 91-71 (AL Wild Card)
  • 858 runs scored (second in MLB), 660 runs allowed (4th best in MLB), +198 run differential
  • 241 home runs hit (best in MLB)
  • 3.34 bullpen ERA (third-best in MLB)

Season series:  Cleveland 5-2

The importance of Game 1

Game 1 is set to take place in Cleveland on Thursday, with Trevor Bauer getting the ball against an unannounced starter. Bauer surged in the second half after a rough start to the year, and had two impressive regular season outings against the Yankees (2-0, 13 IP, 2 ER, 6 BB, 11 K’s).

More likely than not, Cleveland will face Sonny Gray, who faced them three times this season (1-2, 16.2 IP, 11 R, 9 ER, 6 BB, 14 K’s).

Game 1, as always in a division series, will be the biggest factor moving on. Should Cleveland win, they have their ace Corey Kluber going in Game 2 to try to get them a 2-0 series lead; if the Yankees win, Kluber would be tasked with tying up the series at one, a point where the series could take any number of twists.

The factor nobody is considering

Amid the controversy of Bauer vs. Kluber starting Game 1, one thing has been lost in the shuffle – Carlos Carrasco in Game 3. Carlos put together a very solid year (18-6, 3.29 ERA, 226 K’s), and is more than capable of altering the course of a series.

Should Bauer falter in the opener, Cleveland still has two of the best pitchers in the game today to bounce back from a 1-0 deficit. While this does not take away from the importance of winning Game 1, it can certainly be considered quite the safety net.

Strength against strength – who wins out?

It is not often that you see one of the best playoff battles this early in October, but that is exactly what we have. Both Cleveland and New York are very well-rounded clubs with extremely good bullpens, and very deep lineups.

There is no category that you could say these two clubs are mismatched in. So who wins? In my mind, Cleveland takes the series. Am I biased because I am a fan? Perhaps. However, there are serious contributing factors to help me draw this conclusion.

  • New York is an offense powered by the long ball. Cleveland excels at limiting home runs. Power hitting teams can be very prone to fail in the playoffs if that factor is eliminated, which I think Cleveland can do.
  • While New York has a very good bullpen, they are not nearly as rested as Cleveland’s. We do have one day between now and Game 1, but the Yankee bullpen got 26 of the 27 outs recorded in the AL Wild Card game. Chad Green threw 41 pitches, David Robertson 52, Tommy Kahnle 29 and Aroldis Chapman 20. There is no doubt that the Cleveland bullpen will be more ready to go in Game 1, and we already covered the opener’s significance.

Next: Indians set ALDS roster and rotation

We are undoubtedly in for a good, competitive series, but overall this is Cleveland’s series. On paper, these teams match-up so closely that at first glance it could go either way. Take all of the numerous other factors into consideration? The Cleveland Indians take this series in less than five games.