Let’s start broadly here, before jumping into the pitchers the Yankees will face over the next three games in Cleveland.
As it stands, the Indians are 44-38, 0.5 games up on the Tigers for the lead in the American League Central, despite being just 5-5 in their last ten games. In their favor, though, is a 24-14 record at home. The Yankees, however, are no slouches away from the Bronx as they sport a 22-14 record on the road.
The Indians sport a team batting line (with AL rank in parentheses) of: .249 (10)/.318 (8)/.395 (9)/.713 (8). They’re the definition of middle of the league in terms of offense. Their team wOBA is .316, good for a 99 wRC+, so, again, just about any way you slice it, they’re an average offensive team.
They’re led at the dish by the resurgent Travis Hafner and the surprising-should-be-the-AL’s-starting-shortstop-in-the-All-Star-Game Asdrubal Cabrera. The latter left the Bronx with an .858 OPS but has slipped up since, OPSing just .720 since then. Hafner missed a month, including the series in New York, so this will be the first time the Yankees face him in 2011. Against the starters he’ll face–A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Phil Hughes–Hafner has 23 plate appearances, all of which are against Burnett (.350/.435/.550/.985).
The Yankees will again face Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco, but they’ll also see right hander Justin Masterson. Masterson leads the team with 113.2 IP. His strikeout numbers are nothing spectacular at 6.33 per nine, but he’s walking only 2.85 per nine while yielding just 0.35 HR/9. He’s a big ground ball guy with a great 55.2% ground ball rate. This, along with a 75.7% strand rate, has led to a 2.85/3.13/3.55 ERA/FIP/xFIP line.
Tomlin has come back to earth a bit and his E/F/x line is now at 3.85/4.00/3.75 as it looks like the lack of grounders (37.6%) and high home run rate (1.23 HR/9) are coming back to haunt him, though he does have pinpoint control this year (1.05 BB/9). Carrasco is also a ground ball pitcher with a 49.8% GB rate, and his E/F/x line–3.54/3.47/3.66–suggests the results are just about right.
The Indians are still a first place team, so they’re not to be taken lightly. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Yankees took two out of these three games. The matchup is just about even tonight with Burnett and Tomlin, but the Yankees hit Tomlin hard last time and if he keeps serving up homers, the Yankees’ll be in business. Tomorrow’s game tilts in favor of the Yankees solely because CC is on the mound. The third game will be a bit of a toss up since it’ll be Hughes’ first game back.
New York’s coming in hot, despite yesterday’s tough loss and they’ve got two starters who can give them at least 6 innings tonight and tomorrow night. With the offense clicking like it is, I like the Yankees’ chances.
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