The Indians will play their final series against the surprising Yankees team in Yankee Stadium the next three days. Cleveland is coming off a couple tough series (a four game split with the Reds and a loss to the Rays), especially the final game against Tampa which they lost 11-3. With the loss the Indians remain a half game back from Detroit, where they have been the past three days.
The Yankees on the other hand, have been a complete surprise this year and were in first place in the AL East as recently as May 26th. They are currently in third after dropping two straight, but should be reinvigorated soon, by the return of a few of their super stars. Both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis returned to the Yankees this past weekend and should be in the starting lineup against the Tribe. This should help bolster a lineup that doesn't really need any help, already sixth in the league in home runs. If there is one word to describe the Yankees lineup, however, it is old and there is always a question of how long Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner can remain productive. By adding these two all-stars back into the mix, they will not need to rely on the aging veterans quite as much.
Game 1: Monday, June 3rd 7:00 EDT
Justin Masterson, RHP, 8-3, 3.07 ERA vs Andy Pettitte, LHP, 4-3, 3.83 ERA
If the Indians don't win this game, it would be ominous for the rest of the series. Justin Masterson has been defeating all comers this year and the Yankees are certainly no better than the Reds, who he beat in his last start. In fact, Masterson defeated the Yankees once already this year in a 1-0 match-up featuring the Yankees game two starter, David Phelps.
Pettitte on the other hand is very old, and while he may be crafty, he isn't good enough at his age to fool the Indians right handed hitters like Mark Reynolds (2 doubles in 9 AB against Pettite) or Asdrubal Cabrera (.364 career AVG against Pettitte). Even Jason Giambi has had pretty good success against his old teammate, batting .286 with three doubles, although most of those at bats probably came when they were both much younger. Expect Jason Kipnis or Michael Bourn to get a day off in order to get Ryan Raburn into the lineup as well.
Tuesday, June 4th 7:05 EDT
Scott Kazmir, LHP, 3-2, 5.13 ERA vs David Phelps, RHP, 3-3, 4.65 ERA
This game will be a little tougher for the Tribe, but they should be able to pull out a second victory and win the series early. Kazmir has completely straightened out his early season issues (most likely caused by injuries) and has improved vastly in each of his last two starts. Last time out he allowed just one run in seven innings against the offensive juggernaut that is the Cincinnati Reds. He should find the Yankees lineup much easier to deal with as they hit for a much lower average, but still have a tendency to strike out. The Yankees hitters like to go deep into counts, which should suit Kazmir fine as that is how he has been pitching all season. Look for some more big K numbers from Scott as his K/9 is over 9 again for the first time since 2008.
David Phelps is a little of an unknown quantity for the Tribe as the only time most of the team has faced him was during the Yankees last trip to Cleveland. Kipnis does have a home run against the former reliever, but overall the numbers are insignificant. In his last start, Phelps was pulled after just one out when he gave up five runs (four earned) to the Mets. The first three batters reached before Phelps struck out Lucas Duda, then the two reached safely as well. Jayson Nix committed an error to allow another runner and Phelps gave up one more hit before being removed.
Wednesday, June 5th 1:05 EDT
Corey Kluber, RHP, 3-3, 4.36 vs C.C. Sabathia, LHP, 5-4, 3.71 ERA
The Indians' old friend will start the final game of the series against the youngest member of the Indians rotation. Sabathia remains a top pitcher in the league and has been averaging more than six innings per start for New York. His ERA was recently inflated by a seven run game against Tampa Bay, but who hasn't give up seven or eleven to the Rays. In his last start, C.C. shut down Boston with ten strike outs, allowing just a single run through seven innings. The Indians may have one advantage against him however, as he has won the Cy Young award. This has been a good luck charm for the Tribe this year as they have defeated all but one Cy Young award winning pitcher they have faced this season.
Kluber keeps pushing along and has surprisingly been a very strong part of the Indians rotation. In his last start he was only able to pitch two innings due to rain, but they were the best two innings thrown by an Indians pitcher in that game. Kluber was not bumped up in the rotation after his short start, so he may be a little stronger than normal going into this game, only having pitched two innings in the past ten days. It is yet to be seen how this will affect his stuff, but in general, an extra mile or two per hour is usually a good thing. If he can pitch well, this game is definitely winable for the Tribe and they could even possibly sweep the series, which would likely move them back into first place.