Thursday, October 5, 2017


Brad Penner / USA TODAY Sports
It's finally here.

Today starts Game 1 of the ALDS and this is going to be one heck of a tough series. It feels good to FINALLY be in the postseason again, but this is an ugly "welcome back to the ALDS" match-up and the Yankees are gonna have to be on their A+ game to win this series. Here are some key things that have to happen (the most important ones) to get past the Indians.

1. WIN the first game

I have always liked Terry Francona because he isn't afraid to take a risk and he is smart. Game one is important to the Yankees because Francona has opted to start Trevor Bauer INSTEAD of Corey Kluber, but don't be fooled because that is all by design. Normally, managers start their best pitcher one Game one but not this time. Bauer is a good pitcher, but he is no Kluber. Realistically, Kluber is likely to be the AL Cy Young winner at least in my opinion. I think he gets it over Chris Sale.

Pitching Bauer before Kluber means Kluber could pitch games two and then five on regular rest.  Kluber on regular rest is very important to the Indians. They have asked him to pitch on short rest three times last year in the postseason and they don't want to do that again yet. The Indians ace is lined up for two games in this series. Winning Thursday in Cleveland will give the Yankees momentum, and if you like interesting tidbits like me, teams who win the first game in a best of five series statistically go on to win that series 71% of the time. It's a nice stat.....and an even better one if Francona knows it and loses. Let's make the Indians a little uncomfortable and if Sonny Gray pitches a great game and out offense handles Bauer we carry the momentum.

(Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
I hate to say it but the first game is basically a MUST WIN. Chad Green and David Robertson will be unavailable for game One, so that will hurt. The last thing the Yankees want to do is drop the first game and have to worry about a potential 0-2 deficit with Kluber on the mound tomorrow.

(Oct. 2, 2017 - Source: Elsa/Getty Images North America)
2. Battle through Kluber & DON'T give up

Game two is going to be hard! This matchup is going to be interesting with former Indians ace CC Sabathia dueling against current ace Kluber. I am intrigued already. The Yankees have a lot of experience with CC on the mound but they have not had much success against Kluber.

Photo: Getty Images
Looking at the Yankee lineup Jacoby Ellsbury has the most success against him at 5-for-19. The Yankees will need to try and drive up his pitch count and capitalize on any of his mistakes which seems unlikely, but so far pitchers have had a rough time in this early postseason so it's possible. Even if the Yankees manage to get Kluber out early their bullpen is similar to the Yankees and have some great arms like former Yankee Andrew Miller. Luckily in game two Green and Robertson will be available if needed.

3. Rain is in the forecast for Friday

The current forecast has it raining ALL DAY in Cleveland. If that is the case, the game would likely be postponed until Saturday. That would mean three games in a row which could be bad for the bullpens BUT it could be a major advantage for the Yankees. The Indians want to pitch Kluber on regular five day rest as mentioned above.....if game 2 is moved to Saturday and he has to pitch in it he would be starting on short rest. Hmmmm. I like the potential hole in Francona's masterful plan.

Photo: Getty Images
4. Take advantage of Yankee home games

The Yankees have very different splits with home and away games. Their away record this year was 40-41 but at home they are 52-30 if you count their Wild Card win the other night. The Yankees know how to capitalize on their short right porch and have lefty power to send balls over the wall. Not to mention there is nothing like playing in Yankee stadium in the playoffs. Ask Aaron Judge how electric the crowd was Tuesday night. The Yankees can feed off of that energy and use it to their advantage.

Photo: Getty Images
5. Arms & bats need to do their jobs

The bullpen is going to be a difference maker here. Both teams have a deep bullpen but there is nothing quite like the combination of Yankee relievers. The reliable Dellin Betances will need to show up and be effective and Joe Girardi will have plenty of arms to mix and match to whatever his binder tells him to do. The bats also need to do their job.

Photo: Getty Images
The Yankees will need Judge, Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius to set the tone and stay hot at the top of the order like the did against the Twins. The rest of the lineup will need to keep the hits going.

The Yankees are the underdog in this series, but anything can happen in the postseason. The Indians had everything go their way in the regular season and want to finish what they started last year with a ring. The Yankees surpassed everyone's expectations and are hungry to prove everyone wrong.

Who wants it more? We are about to find out....bring it on, Indians!

--Jeana Bellezza
BYB Managing Editor 
Follow me on Twitter: @NYPrincess

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