Bullpens key as Indians host Yankees

STATS/TSX

CLEVELAND -- The New York Yankees seem to be in a comfort zone when playing the Cleveland Indians, and a lot of it has to do with the state of each team's bullpen.

New York has the best bullpen ERA in the American League and Cleveland has the worst.

Both those bullpens will likely be on display Friday night at Progressive Field in the second game of a four-game series. New York won the first game Thursday night 7-4, thanks to four Yankee relievers combining to pitch four hitless and scoreless innings.

"Their bullpen is exceptional. They did a number on us," said Indians manager Terry Francona.

Cleveland's bullpen, meanwhile, has given up eight home runs in the last six games.

New York will go into Friday's game with a record of 7-0 against the Indians since Game 3 of last year's American League Division Series. The Yankees swept the last three games of that series, and then swept a three-game series from the Indians in May of this year. Thursday night they beat Cleveland again.

In those seven wins, the Yankees have outscored the Indians 39-21.

The Indians have lost five of their last six games, all at home, so they are catching the powerful Yankees at the wrong time.

"That's a team that will get your attention in a hurry," Francona said. "We know we have to play really well to beat them. They are really good, so we have to be at the top of our game."

The Indians starter Friday night will be rookie Shane Bieber (4-1, 3.47 ERA), who has flourished after taking over the No.5 spot in the rotation in place of struggling veteran Josh Tomlin.

Bieber, a 23-year-old right-hander, is a strike-throwing machine who started the season at Double-A Akron but pitched his way to Triple-A Columbus and then to Cleveland thanks to his impeccable control.

In a combined 18 starts at Akron, Columbus and Cleveland, Bieber is 10-2 with a 1.99 ERA. In 113 innings he has struck out 108 and walked just 12. In 12 starts at Columbus and Akron Bieber was 6-1 with a 1.29 ERA, while striking out 72, with six walks.

Bieber's last start was a 6-0 loss to Oakland on Sunday. He pitched six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and one walk. However, in his five starts prior to that, he was 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA.

Friday will be Bieber's first career appearance against the Yankees.

New York's Friday starter, Domingo German (2-4, 5.06), will be making his second career appearance against the Indians. His first one was impressive. In a 7-4 Yankees victory on May 6 of this year at Yankee Stadium, German got a no decision, but he completely shut down the Cleveland lineup, tossing six scoreless and hitless innings.

German was removed from that game, which was scoreless at the time, mostly because he had thrown a season-high (to that point) 84 pitches. He struck out nine and walked two.

German hasn't lost a game since June 4. In six starts since then he is 2-0 with a 4.85 ERA. His last start was a no decision against Toronto on Saturday, when he pitched six innings, giving up one run on four hits, with five strikeouts and two walks.

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