After a 2-1 series win against the Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians turn their attention to the rapidly aging New York Yankees to finish off the first half of the season before heading into the All-Star break. As with seemingly every series, the Indians will send a group of great starting pitchers at their opponents, with hopes that the offense can score five runs by the fourth inning and we can all relax and watch easily.
This is the first time the Indians will face the Yankees this season, leaving the Oakland Athletics as the only American League team they have not faced before the All-Star break. No matter what happens in the series -- a sweep of the Yankees, getting swept by the Yankees, or anything in between -- the Indians will still enter the break with a lead in the American League Central.
Start times are the usual lineup of 7:10 p.m. ET first pitches on Thursday and Friday, a 4:10 p.m. ET start on Saturday, and a 1:10 p.m. ET Sunday matinee.
Thursday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Trevor Bauer (RHP) vs. Ivan Nova (RHP)
There was a brief period in 2013 where it looked like Ivan Nova would be a pretty okay pitcher. His ERA and FIP were both down, he was striking out batters, and he was not walking a lot. That has not held true, however, and he remains a starting pitcher with an ERA that consistently sits in the low five's, at best.
This season is nearly identical his disappointing 2015 campaign, and he has been bounced around between the rotation and bullpen as a result. His first six appearances were out of the pen, and he looked bad in that role, allowing eight earned runs in 14 innings. Since being moved to the starting rotation, he has made 11 starts with 35 earned runs, 48 strikeouts, and 16 walks allowed in 62.1 innings. Home runs have also been an issue for Nova -- he has allowed 12 so far as a starter this season. All of that adds up to a 5.05 ERA.
Conversely, Trevor Bauer is having a huge breakout season for the Tribe. He has started 12 games this season with 87 strikeouts and 33 walks. Another good outing in Thursday's start would drop his ERA below 2.00, while his FIP sits in the mid 3.00's. Bauer's last "start" was a dramatic relief appearance in the 19-inning epic against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 1. Bauer pitched wonderfully in an odd situation, keeping the Blue Jays scoreless in five extra innings.
Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Chad Green (RHP)
Chad Green, whom the Yankees acquired in exchange for reliever Justin Wilson at last year's Winter Meetings, has mostly been thought of as a relief prospect, but he will be starting his third game of his major-league career on Friday. Green replaces the struggling Nathan Eovaldi in the Yankees rotation.
In three appearances this season (two starts), Green has struck out 14 batters and walked just one, showing the electric stuff that had some Yankee fans excited about his addition last winter. Green has trouble faces batters multiple times through the lineup, which is one big reason he has been thought of as a reliever. His last start was a six-inning win over the San Diego Padres in which he struck out eight and allowed just three hits.
The Indians will counter with Corey Kluber, who is either "omg not a reel ace!!" (if you listen to angry Twitter takes), or the second-best starting pitcher in the American League (if you following FanGraphs WAR). Kluber also leads the league in FIP at 2.96 -- the next closest is Jose Quintana at 3.21.
Kluber has seemingly done everything right this season -- he is striking batters out, he is not walking many, and he is generating almost 50 percent ground balls -- but runs just keep finding their way across the plate. His last outing was a doozy, in particular, in which he allowed five earned runs off seven hits in 3.1 innings. Kluber also allowed a season-high four walks in that game, one of only three starts (out of 17) that he has allowed three or more walks.
Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. CC Sabathia (LHP)
CC Sabathia is a long way removed from winning a Cy Young with the Indians in 2007, but he is having a nice bounceback year for himself. The 35-year-old currently holds a 3.48 ERA and a 3.80 FIP in 14 starts for the Yankees, both of which would be his best marks since 2012. The biggest improvement that Sabathia has made is allowing fewer balls to leave the park -- in 2016, he is allowing 0.65 home runs per nine innings, compared to the 1.51 he allowed in 2015 and the 1.96 he allowed in 2014.
One potential reason for the change could be that Sabathia is working in a cutter this season, much more than he has in the past. In fact, according to Brook's Baseball, it is his most-used pitch.
Opposing batters have been helpless against it, slugging just .299 in the 453 times CC has used it.
American League All-Star Danny Salazar will take the mound for the Tribe, bringing his AL-leading 2.36 ERA to Progressive Field. Salazar has had some weirdly ineffective starts this season, but he almost always seems to come away without allowing many runs. His last outing on July 4 against the Tigers was one such occurrence when he allowed eight hits over 5.2 innings but only three runs off two home runs. Salazar has only allowed four or more runs once this season.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP)
Masahiro Tanaka has been a bright spot for the Yankees this season, carrying a 3.12 ERA and a 3.24 FIP over his 17 starts. His season is pockmarked by some implosions, such as his six-run game against the Texas Rangers on June 29, but for the most part, Tanaka has been a solid rotation option for the Yanks.
This spot would normally be reserved for Carlos Carrasco, but the Indians are opting to let him get some extra rest heading into the All-Star break. Instead, Josh Tomlin will look to bounce back from a disappointing start against the Detroit Tigers (4.2 IP, 5 ER, 7 H) on four days rest.
Nothing! Indians head into the All-Star break after this. Enjoy the time off, everyone not named Kluber, Salazar, or Lindor.
Team in a box
If it was not apparent enough by the No. 1 rankings in strikeouts and walks allowed, Yankees pitching has not been that terrible this season. The real downfall has been defense. They rank in the middle of the road according to defensive runs saved at No. 8 (-7 DRS), and they struggle to make plays deemed "Routine" by FanGraphs' Inside Edge Fielding. They are ranked ninth in the AL, converting 46.3 percent of "Routine" plays.
Even with the legendary short porch of New Yankee Stadium, the Bronx Bombers are not hitting very many bombs. They rank 11th in the American League with 89 homers, but dead last in dingers away from home with 36.
New York Yankees roster
- C: Brian McCann
- 1B: Mark Teixeira
- 2B: Starlin Castro
- SS: Didi Gregorius
- 3B: Chase Headley
- LF: Brett Gardner
- CF: Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF: Carlos Beltran
- DH: Alex Rodriguez
- C: Austin Romine
- IF: Rob Refsnyder
- IF: Ronald Torreyes
- OF: Aaron Hicks
- RHP: Masahiro Tanaka
- RHP: Michael Pineda
- LHP: CC Sabathia
- RHP: Ivan Nova
- SHP: Chad Green
- RHP: Dellin Betances
- LHP: Richard Bleier
- LHP: Aroldis Chapman
- RHP: Nathan Eovaldi
- LHP: Andrew Miller
- LHP: Chasen Shreve
- RHP: Anthony Swarzak