The Cleveland Indians could not be in much better shape in their American League Division Series against the New York Yankees.
The Indians have a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series that shifts to Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. Cleveland also has plenty of momentum after rallying from a five-run deficit to beat the Yankees 9-8 in 13 innings in Game 2 on Friday night.
After winning 31 of their last 35 regular-season games to finish with an AL-best 102-60 record, the Indians were already feeling confident. Now they have be feeling nearly invincible after the big comeback in Game 2 that came despite ace Corey Kluber being rocked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion leaving the game after the first inning with a sprained right ankle.
Not only did the Indians overcome those obstacles, but they got good news Saturday when Encarnacion had shown enough improvement to say with confidence that he would return at some point in the postseason. He had 38 home runs and 107 RBIs in the first year of his thee-year, $60-million free agent contract while batting .258/.377/.504.
An example of the Indians’ depth came when Encarnacion exited and was replaced by Michael Brantley, who was selected to play in the All-Star Game this season.
Brantley was on the disabled list from Aug. 9-Sept. 29 with a sprained ankle before returning for the final two games of the regular season. He hit .299/.357/.444 with nine homers and 11 stolen bases in 90 games.
The Indians have right-hander Carlos Carrasco set to start Game 3 to try to finish the sweep as he faces Masahiro Tanaka. Carrasco tied for the AL lead in wins, posting an 18-6 record and 3.29 ERA in 32 starts, including going 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA in his final 10 outings.
Furthermore, Carrasco has plenty of motivation. He was heartbroken to miss the postseason and Indians’ run to Game 7 of the World Series last year after suffering a broken right hand when struck by a line drive late in the regular season.
Even though manager Terry Francona needed to use seven relievers in Game 2, none threw more the 36 pitches of closer Cody Allen. Thus, everyone in the vaunted bullpen should be ready as the Indians look for their second ALDS sweep as in many years after taking three straight games from the Boston Red Sox in 2016.
“The quicker you can wrap (series) up, the better it is easy for everyone,” Indians catcher Yan Gomes. “You get a chance to get some extra rest and set the pitching up the way you want. That’s very important.”