It wasn’t the outcome anyone expected, but the Yankees will most definitely take it.
Shane Bieber couldn’t handle the Yankees’ potent lineup, while Gerrit Cole racked up 13 strikeouts in New York's 12-3 rout of the Indians in Cleveland on Tuesday night in Game 1. And they’re looking to carry all of that momentum into Game 2 on Wednesday night.
Masahiro Tanaka gets the ball and he’ll look to try to improve his stellar postseason career numbers when he faces off against Carlos Carrasco. With Game 1 already in the bag, New York is looking to end it all right here and move on to the ALDS in San Diego.
Here are the three keys to the Yankees finishing off this Wild Card Round without needing a Game 3:
Postseason Tanaka Comes to Play
As we mentioned, Tanaka has been absolutely lights out when he gets the ball in the postseason. He owns a 1.76 ERA over eight starts where the Yankees are 5-3. The most runs he’s allowed in a postseason start is three earned, which came in the ALCS against the Houston Astros last year.
During the regular season, though, Tanaka hasn’t been the most consistent. He did finish with a respectable 3.56 ERA, but a 4.42 FIP tells the bigger story. He has also made it six innings or more in just two of his nine starts this year.
If the Yankees want to close out this series, it’s going to take postseason Tanaka to make that happen. That Tanaka has his splitter working early on and his fastballs dotted on the black. You also can’t expect the Yankees offense to be blasting balls over the fence left and right like they did in Game 1.
Also worth noting: Tanaka has allowed five homers in his last four starts. He has only let up four in his postseason career. So, yeah, the Yankees want to see postseason Tanaka. They’re honestly expecting it.
Continue to Stay Disciplined at the Plate
The Yankees stuck to the game plan of not biting on Bieber’s nasty curve when he’d throw it low and out of the zone. It got a few hitters because of its insane late break, but most of the time, it was called a ball and he was forced to get something in the zone, which they attacked.
That plate discipline will go a long way against Carrasco as well. Thanks to Baseball Savant, we know that Carrasco doesn’t have just one out-pitch that he likes to use, but two: Slider and changeup. He uses both of those pitches 28 percent of the time while his four-seamer is used on 34 percent of his pitches. He also has a curveball and sinker that he’ll mix in here and there.
The changeup, as you’d expect, likes to stay down and out of the zone if possible. He has late tumble and looks exactly like a fastball coming toward the plate – the quintessential deception of the pitch. It’s also a power changeup that averages 87.7 mph on the radar gun.
His slider also has some tight movement to it, though it does have a tendency to be a “cement mixer,” “spinner,” or whatever term you want to use for a flat pitch that doesn’t break. That’s the risk Carrasco runs by throwing it a lot. Carrasco likes for that pitch to live low and away to righties, catching a part of the plate to entice hitters before it zips out of the zone.
Patience at the plate and making Carrasco throw pitches in the zone is key to another offensive breakout. He’ll come at hitters with the fastball, but don’t be surprised if he starts them right off the bat with offspeed stuff to get them thinking.
Don’t Take the Foot Off the Pedal
This is where the Yankees wanted to be after Game 1: In the driver’s seat. Now they just can’t take their foot off the pedal.
It was a statement win for sure – smacking the likely AL Cy Young Award winner around isn’t an easy task. But the Yanks better hope they didn’t exhaust all of their run production in one night.
The Bombers will need to stay locked in and use that momentum from Game 1 to get out to another early lead, capitalize on pitching mistakes, and most importantly, don’t get too relaxed because there’s always Game 3 if things don’t go according to plan.
But this likely doesn’t need to be said to this crew that already knows how cutthroat and unpredictable the postseason can be. They have the Indians with their backs up against the wall, and they’d like to keep it that way to ensure a plane ride to sunny San Diego by the end of the night.