Do the New York Yankees have the audacity to knock out the mighty Cleveland Indians?
The New Yorkers played two impressive games at Yankee Stadium and tied their series with the Tribe, but if the Yankees are going to continue their run, they are going to have to figure out a way to win at Progressive Field and take three games in a row from the American League Central champions.
Based on Cleveland's sensational form in the latter part of the regular season that included a 22-game winning streak, it does not seem likely. However, when the two teams take the field at 8:08 p.m. ET in a game that will be televised by FS1, the pressure on the Indians will be palpable.
Cleveland went all the way to the 10th inning of the seventh game of last year's World Series before falling to the Chicago Cubs, and it looked like that defeat was motivating the team through its end-of-season surge.
Now the Indians are fighting for their lives, and the Yankees are playing for franchise glory and a spot in the American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.
The Yankees are sending veteran lefthander CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 earned-run average) to the mound against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA), a strong candidate to win the Cy Young award.
Sabathia will make the 21st postseason start of his career, and he looked good in Game 2 when he kept the Indians to two earned runs in 5.1 innings of work in Game 2. Kluber gave up six earned runs in 2.2 innings of that same game, and that was the right-hander's worst performance of the year.
"It's a hell of a lot of fun to be in it than to be sitting on the side. I am just glad I get the opportunity to participate and not watch," Sabathia said, per George A. King III of the New York Post. "Because watching these games will give you an ulcer. Pitching in them is a lot more fun."
Kluber explained that he didn't have his best stuff in Game 2: "I didn't pitch well. I didn't have good command, didn't throw the ball where I wanted to. We all would have liked to have won the third game in New York and not be here in Game 5, [but] this is what everybody plays for."
The Yankees have demonstrated their ability to hit the long ball, as they have hit eight home runs in the series. Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird each have two, and rookie slugger Aaron Judge has one.
The Indians have hit five home runs to this point in the series, as Jay Bruce has two of the long balls, but none of his teammates have more than one.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi says there is respect for Kluber, but the Yankees have confidence that they can survive and advance.
"We know we're facing a great pitcher," Girardi said, per Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. "But there's a lot of confidence in that room, and they pick each other up, and they grind out at-bats, and pitchers pick each other up and make big pitches."
The Yankees-Indians Game 5 can be live-streamed at MLB.TV.
The mental and psychological game will be fought up until Kluber goes to the mound for the fifth and decisive game in the ALDS.
The Yankees have their proud history and momentum, while the Indians have perhaps the most talented team in baseball, their close-but-no-cigar finish last year and a brilliant starting pitcher.
The Tribe also has a history of falling short, as their last World Series championship came in 1948.
They have to win this game and two more series to end that dry spell.
The pressure on the Indians is thick and nasty. But the presence of Kluber, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and a powerful bullpen should overpower the substantial challenge from the Yankees.
While New York's power has been impressive, this is Cleveland's year. The Yankees will have to do what the other guys have had to do for so long—wait until next year.
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