By this time tomorrow, the Cleveland Indians could have secured their spot in the American League Championship Series. To get there, they'll need to have another solid game against the Boston Red Sox, this time in Fenway as the Sox attempt to stave off elimination for one more day.
How to watch
First pitch for today's game will be at 4:08 PM EST on TBS.
On paper, this match-up seems to be the antithesis to the Price/Kluber pairing that we saw on Friday. The starters for today, Josh Tomlin and Clay Buchholz, have each had struggles in the regular season. Buchholz comes into this do-or-die game sporting a regular season 4.78 ERA and an even worse FIP and xFIP of 5.06 and 5.32, respectively. He has a multitude of different pitches, primarily opting for an average velocity 4-seam and an even more average sinker (quote from Brooks Baseball regarding the sinker: "His sinker is a prototypical pitch with few remarkable qualities"). He doesn't strike a lot of batters out (6.01 K/9), he walks a lot of batters (3.55 BB/9), and he gives up a silly amount of home runs (1.36 HR/9). You would think that this would mean that hitters a sporting an extremely high BABIP against him, but no; the BABIP against Buchholz in 2016 is .263. If anything, batters should be hitting him more often than they already are (which may explain in part the discrepancy between ERA and FIP/xFIP).
Josh "Lil' Cowboy" Tomlin takes the reins in arguably his most important start in his career. In a lot of ways, Tomlin is similar to Buchholz. Tomlin also strikes out hardly anyone (6.10 K/9) and gives up an even sillier amount of home runs (1.86 HR/9). Tomlin is better, however, in terms of not walking folks (1.03 BB/9) as well as a lower regular season ERA (4.40), FIP (4.88) and xFIP (4.13). Unfortunately, against a power lineup like Boston, the home run ball could prove to be a real death knell for Tomlin as 7 players on the Red Sox have 15+ home runs.
Keys to the game: For the love of [redacted, religion], don't give up too many home runs to the Red Sox
At this point, it seems almost inevitable that Tomlin is going to give up at least one home run during today's game. If that's the only run he gives up, I'll be perfectly happy with it. But if he gives up multiple home runs, especially if any of them come with runners on base, it could be an early exit for the Cowboy and a long day for the bullpen. I'm hoping that Tomlin can go at least five innings and give up three or fewer runs. Do that, and if the offense makes Clay Buchholz look like Clay Buchholz, the big four of the bullpen should be able to scratch out a win. If anything, I would say that the pitching match-up should favor the Tribe in a vacuum. But as good as Cleveland's offense is, I'm more worried about Tomlin v. Red Sox than I am excited at the prospect of Buchholz v. Indians.
Regardless of what happens today, the Cleveland Indians are still in the driver's seat for this series. Get a win today, and we can all stop talking/hearing about David Ortiz.