CLEVELAND -- What was touted as one of the most intense duels of the season instead produced a one-sided slugfest, with Gerrit Cole outpitching Shane Bieber in the Yankees’ 12-3 victory over the Indians in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean Wednesday night can’t make up for a lost battle.
“It’s the same feeling we had with Cole -- we believe in Tanaka,” said Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres. “We're coming to the ballpark to do the same thing we did [in Game 1].”
If history repeats itself, the two clubs can expect a pitching-dominated contest. Carrasco made his postseason debut in Game 3 of the 2018 American League Division Series against Tanaka and the Yankees. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing just three hits with seven strikeouts. But even that wasn’t enough, as the Yankees took a 1-0 victory after Tanaka limited the Tribe to three hits in seven scoreless frames.
Tanaka has been difficult to beat in the postseason, as the Yankees veteran owns a 1.76 ERA with 37 strikeouts in eight playoff starts, holding opponents to a .157 average. But Carrasco is preparing to make one of the biggest starts of his career, as the Indians look to avoid elimination. The Tribe has lost nine consecutive games in which it faced elimination, which is the longest streak in postseason history.
“These are do-or-die games, and it's win or go home and I don't really want to go home yet,” Indians outfielder Josh Naylor said. “I want to win. I want to be with this team for the whole ride. It was an unfortunate night [on Tuesday], but we're going to bounce back.”
Here are some questions entering Game 2:
When is the game and how can I watch it?
Game 2 will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.
How’s the forecast?
There is a chance that rain could impact Game 2. Weather.com is calling for a 40 percent chance of showers at 7 p.m. ET in Cleveland, decreasing to 35 percent at 8 p.m. ET and 25 percent at 9 p.m. ET. The National Weather Service similarly calls for a chance of showers in the early evening, then partly cloudy conditions with a low of 47 degrees.
Those forecasts appear to be promising for the Yankees and Indians to complete their game. If postponement were necessary, the series can be pushed back -- the American League Division Series does not begin until Oct. 5 in San Diego and Los Angeles.
Official starting lineups
Yankees: Aaron Boone reinserted Gary Sánchez as the catcher for Game 2 after he was benched to keep the pairing of Cole and Kyle Higashioka rolling. Seven of Tanaka’s 10 regular-season starts came with Sánchez behind the plate, and Boone has said he’ll need both catchers if the Yanks go all the way.
Indians: For most of the season, the Tribe rarely penciled in the same starting three outfielders in consecutive lineups. But Wednesday was an exception. Of Cleveland’s eight hits from Tuesday night, four came from Naylor, while Delino DeShields and Tyler Naquin each added one to likely earn each of them another start in Game 2.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka (3-3, 3.56 ERA) acknowledged some emotions during his most recent start, in which he hurled seven innings of three-run ball against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka is coming to the end of his seven-year contract with the Yankees, which he has viewed as “the end to a chapter.” Yet Tanaka said that his focus is completely on the postseason, where his .157 opponent batting average is the lowest in history allowed by a starting pitcher (minimum 40 innings).
Indians: Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.91 ERA) will bring a much-needed veteran presence to the mound on Wednesday. After Shane Bieber's Game 1 performance showed that inexperience can take its toll on the best of hurlers, it might have been the right move for the Tribe to slot Carrasco between 25-year-olds Bieber and Zach Plesac (slated for Game 3, if needed). Carrasco has made two postseason starts, owning a combined 1.64 ERA in 11 innings. The 33-year-old will hope that his momentum from his last six regular-season starts will carry over to Game 2, as he pitched to a 1.66 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 38 innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Yankees: With the exception of Luis Cessa, who tossed the final two innings of Game 1 after Cole’s exit, the Yankees are locked and loaded with their full arsenal of late-inning relievers. Considering that, look for Boone to be more aggressive with his hook for Tanaka, whose highest pitch count of the season was 95, on Sept. 6 at Baltimore. Tanaka tossed 91 pitches in each of his last two outings of the regular season, which he started late because of a concussion.
Indians: With elimination on the line, the Indians will be using their high-leverage relievers after Carrasco exits the game. To get the ball to closer Brad Hand, the Tribe would likely turn to James Karinchak and Nick Wittgren. Depending how early Carrasco exists, Triston McKenzie could get a chance to come out of the 'pen as well.
Are there any relievers who are unavailable?
Yankees: Cessa threw 32 pitches in Game 1.
Any injuries of note?
Who is hot and who is not?
Yankees: Torres and Gardner both flipped the switch in Game 1, becoming the first pair of No. 7 and No. 8 hitters to register three or more RBIs in a postseason game, according to STATS. Each homered and had three hits. If Sánchez gets the start behind the plate, he’ll be coming in off a 2-for-20 slide to end a regular season in which he batted .147, the lowest average of any Major Leaguer to hit at least 10 home runs in a season.
Indians: It’s hard to be hotter than a 4-for-4 night at the plate against Gerrit Cole, which is exactly what Naylor did on Tuesday night. The 23-year-old recorded just the fifth four-hit game in Indians postseason history, logging two doubles, a single and a homer. On the contrary, as much as Santana and Reyes tried to snap their slumps with strong offensive performances in the final game of the regular season on Sunday, they both went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Tuesday.