CLEVELAND -- The pitching matchup for Game 2 of the American League Division series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland on Friday will feature two of the last three Indians pitchers to win the Cy Young Award: CC Sabathia (2007) and Corey Kluber (2014).
Cleveland manager Terry Francona's decision to start Kluber in Game 2 of the ALDS instead of Game 1 raised some eyebrows, but it couldn't have worked out better. Trevor Bauer pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to anchor a 4-0 Indians victory in Game 1.
That allows Cleveland the chance to use its ace in Game 2. For his part, Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) said he was comfortable with the decision, which he learned of during a meeting with Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
"They gave their ideas for it and why they had their ideas for it, and I didn't have a problem with it," Kluber said. "To me, it's not about me wanting to pitch the first game or wanting to pitch the second game. It's about us winning three games before they do. Whichever way that happens, and if it happens and we advance, it doesn't matter who pitches when, in my mind."
Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) has had a career resurgence this year at age 36. He will be facing the Indians for the first time since Aug. 6, 2016, when he was the losing pitcher in a 5-2 decision. In that game, Sabathia pitched 5 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on four hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
In 11 career starts against his former team, Sabathia is 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA.
Asked if he was surprised by Sabathia's late-career surge, Francona said: "Not at all. He's such a good athlete, and I don't think people give him credit for that. I know his knees hurt at times and they're a little creaky, but, no, he's a really good athlete and he can manipulate the ball. So it's not surprising at all."
Sabathia is a battle-tested postseason pitcher. He is 9-5 with a 4.53 ERA in 19 postseason games (18 starts).
"It's a good lineup," Sabathia said of the Indians. "Top to bottom, they do everything. They run. They've got power. They make you throw a lot of pitches. It's going to be tough to face them, but I'll just try to be aggressive like I always do in the strike zone, and try to get them to mis-hit some balls."
Kluber could be on the verge of winning his second Cy Young Award. In 2017, he led the AL or was tied for the league lead in wins, complete games (five), shutouts (three), ERA, WHIP (0.87), hits per nine innings (6.23), walks per nine innings (1.59) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.36).
In six career postseason starts, all last year, Kluber is 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA. That includes his start against the Cubs in Game 7 of the World Series. It was Kluber's third straight start on short rest, and he was out of gas, giving up four runs in four innings.
Kluber was 4-0 with an 0.89 ERA in his other five postseason starts.
In two starts against the Yankees this year, Kluber was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA. In six career starts against New York, he is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA.
Yankees pitchers will be throwing to catcher Gary Sanchez, whose defense has been criticized this year, but manager Joe Girardi is happy with the progress Sanchez has made behind the plate.
"He continues to work on his defense, and I'm really proud of what he's done, the improvements that he's made, and he's only going to get better," Girardi said.