Just days after joining his new team, Andrew Miller will return to the place where he has enjoyed his most success when the Cleveland Indians begin a new road trip against the New York Yankees. The Indians may have single-handedly built up the Yankees farm system (okay, maybe with some help from the Chicago Cubs), but at least they will not have to face any of their former players for another year, at most.
The series against they-who-shall-be-named has put the Indians in a spot they have not been in for weeks -- the American League Central lead is within reach of the Detroit Tigers. Technically, the Indians could get swept, the Tigers could sweep, and the lead would still be intact, but it is still way too close for comfort. Luckily, the Yankees have not yet made a trade for Max Kepler, so they appear safe.
Games on Friday and Sunday should be pleasant in the mid-80s, but there is a high chance Saturday's game could be delayed -- or at least impacted -- by rain. Which, naturally, is Corey Kluber's day to start against CC Sabathia, easily the Indians' best matchup of the series.
Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Michael Pineda (RHP)
Oh, Michael Pineda. So much potential when the first came up with the Seattle Mariners. Then he was traded to the New York Yankees for equally disappointing player Jesus Montero, had a major injury, and has seemingly never recovered.
This season, Pineda has a 5.13 ERA and a 3.89 FIP in 21 starts. He is striking out a career-high 27.6 percent of batters he faces, but he has some major issues giving up home runs, ranked ninth among qualified American League hitters with a 1.51 home runs per nine innings. In his last start, Pineda allowed five runs over six innings, but he also had eight strikeouts. That's been the story for Pineda a lot this season: Lots of runs, but lots of strikeouts.
Pineda's opponent in this game, Josh Tomlin, is a very similar pitcher. The only difference is that Tomlin does not strike out nearly as many opponents, but he also has enjoyed much better success over his career. Expect a lot of home runs in this game.
Saturday, 1:05 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. CC Sabathia (LHP)
Former Tribe pitcher CC Sabathia is likely in the twilight years of his career. However, even at 36, he is still worth 1.9 fWAR this season with a servicable ERA for a fourth or fifth starter. He may not have an issue finding a job after this season, but his time of blockbuster contracts is clearly over. As it is now, he is still a Yankees starter with a 4.15 ERA and a 4.20 FIP -- he is a long ways away from the 6.4 FanGraphs WAR he was worth in his final full year with the Indians in 2007.
Sabathia stumbled in his last start, allowing five runs over 5.2 innings, including two home runs and three walks. He is striking out a career-low number of batters this season, and he has whiffed seven or more batters in just four his 19 starts this season.
As stated in the intro, this is the best on-paper matchup for the Tribe. Corey Kluber has been the Indians most consistent pitcher all season long, and he is cruising in his recent starts. His last outing was a seven-inning shutout of the Oakland Athletics in which he struck out seven and walked just two. He has struck out at least seven batters and walked three or fewer in eight of his last nine starts.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP)
Yankees pitchers have not been very good this season, but Masahiro Tanaka has been their best every five days. He carries a 3.46 ERA and a 3.45 FIP despite the lowest strikeout rate of his budding MLB career. With all that said, he allowed seven earned runs in his last start off of eight hits and two home runs.
Carlos Carrasco is a similar story for the Indians, having an overall pretty good season but recent struggles. His last start against they-who-shall-not-be-named was a disaster: eight earned runs in just 3.2 innings.
The Indians will wrap up this short road trip with a two-game set against the Washington Nationals before returning home to play the Los Angeles Angels, a make-up game against the Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox.
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Team in a box
The Yankees are a team in a clear rebuild; kudos to them for realizing it at the deadline. Their farm is stacked, but as far as the major-league roster goes... it won't be pretty for a while. Their first-half offense was atrocious even with Carlos Beltran, but it figures to get worse as they plug in rookies and other journeymen to fill up space until their top prospects are ready.
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: Aaron Hicks
- DH: Gary Sanchez
- C: Austin Romine
- INF: Rob Refsnyder
- INF: Ronald Torreyes
- INF: Alex Rodriguez
Carlos Beltran is gone, but Yankees fans still have the surprisingly great Didi Gregorius to watch this season. The shortstop leads Yankees position players in fWAR (2.0), and wRC+ (104) with his .290/.320/.453 slash. The Yankees recently promoted one of their top prospects, catcher Gary Sanchez, who is finding time at designated hitter with Bryan McCann behind the plate.
Alex Rodriguez is still technically around, but he is far-and-away the Yankees' worst hitter. He has been worth -1.1 fWAR with a .204/.252/.356 slash in 234 plate appearences.
- RHP: Masahiro Tanaka
- RHP: Michael Pineda
- LHP: CC Sabathia
- RHP: Nathan Eovaldi
- RHP: Luis Severino
- RHP: Dellin Betances
- RHP: Johnny Barbato
- LHP: Richard Bleier
- RHP: Tyler Clippard
- RHP: Nick Goody
- RHP: Anthony Swarzak
- RHP: Adam Warren
Tanaka is the Yankees' best starting pitcher by a long shot. In fact, their pitcher with the second-highest fWAR is a reliever: Dellin Betances. They also re-acquired Tyler Clippard at the deadline, who will be pitching in a Yankees uiform for the first time since his rookie season in 2007. The 31-year-old has a 4.31 ERA and a 4.42 FIP in 42 relief appearences this season.
- RHP: Conor Mullee, 15-day DL (Carpal tunnel)
- LHP: Chris Parmelee, 15-day DL (Hamstring)
- OF: Dustin Ackley, 60-day DL (Shoulder)
- RHP: Bryan Mitchell, 60-day DL (Toe)
- RHP: Branden Pinder, 60-day DL (Tommy John)