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ALDS Game 1 preview: Indians turn to Trevor Bauer to set the table

The ALDS won’t be over after Game 1, but a strong outing from Trevor Bauer would go a long way towards setting a positive tone.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians are prepared for a playoff run. How long that playoff run lasts is yet to be seen, but you can bet they are prepared for it. Trevor Bauer is ready, Francisco Lindor is ready, even Progressive Field is getting ready. That run starts tonight against the Boston Red Sox.

Even just a win in Game 1 would be some kind of justice served for the ALCS of nine years ago. Seven years of heartbreak turned into one night of pure jubilation. Two more wins after that and the city of Cleveland may not know what to do with itself. And that’s just the ALDS.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, the Indians must defeat the Red Sox. First, they must win Game 1. First, Trevor Bauer must throw the first ALDS pitch in Cleveland since 2007.

The Indians are making the curious decision of "rocking red" tonight against the... Red Sox? Is this some kind of weird tribute to David Ortiz, Cleveland? Because I don’t think it’s appropriate right now. In all reality, the Indians have been building up this "rock the red" thing during big games all season, so it was probably too late to back out now. Just a funny little coincidence that they happen to be playing the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS.

How to watch

First pitch for tonight’s game will be at 8:08 p.m. ET on TBS.

Pitching matchup

Game 1’s matchup is Rick Porcello against Trevor Bauer. Confusing, inconsistent pitcher who sort of had a break out season against confusing, inconsistent pitcher who had a breakout season and could potentially be the AL Cy Young.

Porcello’s breakout season is much more obvious than Bauer’s. The 27-year-old does not strike a lot of batters out, but he also does not walk a lot, either. He just kind of... gets things done. Like a Super Saiyan version of Josh Tomlin without the home runs.

His velocity will not blow you away, with a four-seam fastball sitting around 92 mph. His change-up has been the biggest difference in 2016. Its average velocity dropped from 82 mph in 2015 to 80 in 2016 and the deception has resulted in opponents batting just .174 off of it this season.

Bauer, on the other hand, has seen a bit of an uptick in velocity. Part of that is from coming out of the bullpen to start the season when he was regularly throwing 95+ mph, but even in the latter monshof the season he was in the mid-94’s. Across the board, Bauer’s individual pitches have been better, but the results have not panned out yet.

Some flashes here and there of a true No. 2 starter, but without injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar he is probably coming out of the bullpen in the ALDS. However, one great outing tonight will go a long ways towards people seeing him as a true front-of-the-rotation starter. Does he have it in him?

Key to the game: Keep Bauer out of his own head

Maybe it’s just all anecdotal, but Trevor Bauer seems to frequently get flustered when something does not go his way or he makes a mistake. To an extent that is fine — if you (or the umpire) screw up, get pissed. Bauer could do a lot of good in Game 1 if he can stay out of his own head and just pitch the way he has at times this season.

The Indians could probably win a shootout with almost any other Red Sox pitcher on the mound, but not Porcello. Game 1 is going to rely heavily on Bauer’s ability to shutdown the best offense in the American League, which is no small feat for anyone. But if he can get his hammer 12-6 curve working, his velocity up over 95 consistently, and in control, he could really set the tempo for the rest of the Tribe’s playoff run.