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The Sports Daily > Burning River Baseball
2017 ALDS Game 3 Preview: Carrasco Looks to End Yankees Season

After a crazy, 13 inning-long Game 2 in Cleveland, the Yankees and the Indians travel to the Bronx with the Tribe leading the ALDS 2-0. Game 3 will feature two strong starting pitchers: Carlos Carrasco for Cleveland, and Masohiro Tanaka for New York.

The starting pitchers figure to play a prominent role in Game 3. Considering the heavy workload both bullpens underwent on Friday (the teams combined for seven relievers with 22+ pitches), it’s unlikely we’ll see either team turning to their bullpen especially early. Instead, Game 3 should more closely resemble a duel between Tanaka and Carrasco.

Tanaka’s 2017 season was his worst since coming to the MLB from Japan in 2014. He posted career worsts in ERA (4.74) and FIP (4.34) but his xFIP (3.44) suggested Tanaka’s 2017 wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Particularly, Tanaka dealt with a home run problem in 2017 – his HR/9 (1.77) and home run per fly ball rate (21.2%) were easily career worsts.

As a result, taking Tanaka deep may be a key for Cleveland in the game. He doesn’t walk many hitters (5.5% walk rate, 8th-best among SP in 2017), and he induces a high number of ground balls (49.2% ground ball rate, 13th-best among SP in 2017). Instead of stringing together walks and hits to produce runs, Cleveland will have to capitalize on Tanaka’s mistakes.

While Tanaka won’t be easy to beat, neither will Carlos Carrasco. While Corey Kluber‘s Cy Young season and breakouts from Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger stole the headlines in 2017, Carlos Carrasco was quietly a top ten starting pitcher in baseball.

Carrasco was 6th among starting pitchers in WAR, 8th in FIP, 10th in K%, and 10th in BB%. There isn’t really a weakness in Carrasco’s game – he strikes out tons of hitters, walks few, and induces a healthy amount of ground balls. Carrasco’s “stuff” is among the best in the league – his 95 mph fastball is complimented by a plus curveball, slider, and changeup.

If the Indians can capitalize on Tanaka’s home run problems, the Yankees may have trouble keeping up.  New York’s home run leaders – Aaron Judge (52), Gary Sanchez (33), and Todd Frazier (27) – are all right handed, and Carrasco’s .58 HR/9 against righties was the 5th best in baseball.

On the storyline front, Cleveland fans should watch out for a potential Edwin Encarnacion appearance. Terry Francona suggested on Friday that Encarnacion wouldn’t start Sunday’s game, but hadn’t ruled out his availability off the bench. As bad as the injury looked Friday, Encarnacion merely traveling with the team seems noteworthy.

Sunday’s affair will ultimately be a battle of wills: no doubt New York will be desperate to keep the series alive, but they have a tall task in front of them in facing Carrasco. Considering New York ace Jose Severino is slated to pitch in Game 4, Cleveland is just as motivated to end the series.

ALDS Game 3 Line-Ups:

Pos Indians Pos Yankees
SS Francisco Lindor LF Brett Gardner
CF Jason Kipnis RF Aaron Judge
2B Jose Ramirez C Gary Sanchez
RF Jay Bruce SS Didi Gregorius
1B Carlos Santana 2B Starlin Castro
LF Austin Jackson 1B Greg Bird
DH Michael Brantley 3B Todd Frazier
C Roberto Perez DH Jacoby Ellsbury
3B Giovanny Urshela CF Aaron Hicks