The New York Yankees face the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 for the spot to face the Houston Astros in the ALCS. Who will win?

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Tonight, starting at 8:00pm ET, the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians battle for survival. One team will move on to the ALCS against the Houston Astros, who finished off the Red Sox in four games. The other, will watch the ALCS from the couch. So who do these two teams send out onto the pitcher’s mound to fight for survival?

The New York Yankees send CC Sabathia, the 37 year-old left hander who, back in Game 2 threw 5 1/3-innings giving up two earned runs, walking three and striking out five. There were four runs given up total, but only two were earned. The lefty was 14-5 on the season with a 3.69 ERA. Sabathia has been in the MLB for 17 years, where he started in Cleveland ironically. For half a season, he pitched in Milwaukee.

Since 2009, Sabathia has been a New York Yankee. In those eight seasons he’s pitched, he’s gone 120-73 with a 3.75 ERA. In this year though, on the road he went 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 14 starts. When playing at night, as Game 5 will be a night game, he was 8-4 with a 4.17 ERA in 19 starts. In Game 2 Sabathia gave up two runs in the first and one in the second. Those first two innings is where Sabathia gave up the most of his runs this season.

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The man who Sabathia is sharing the mound with is right-hander Corey Kluber. After going 18-4 in the regular season with a 2.25 ERA and 265 strikeouts, he had a very rough Game 2. Kluber lasted 2 2/3 innings giving up six runs on seven hits. He struck out four, walked one and gave up two home runs to Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks.

Kluber is more than likely the 2017 AL Cy Young Award winner over lefty Chris Sale who broke the 300 strikeout mark this year. In the regular season Kluber faced the Yankees twice, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 17 total innings. At home he was 10-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 16 starts. He excelled at night going 11-3 during night games this season with a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts. In those 20 starts, he had 176 strikeouts over 141.2 innings.  In his last seven appearances, he is 6-0 with 57 strikeouts and only six earned runs given up over 51 innings.

After a 7-3 win by the Yankees in New York, the teams have traveled back to Cleveland. As in most sports, there is always a “home-field advantage.” The crowd will be filled with Indians fans ready to cheer their team on while heckling and booing the Yankees. In that 7-3 win, Yankees player Gary Sanchez had their only home run. Frazier, Hicks, Gardner and Sanchez all had an RBI, while Aaron Judge had two. Judge went 1-5 with four strikeouts and two RBIs on a double.

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In this series, the power hitting rookie has not shown his regular season ability. Combined through four games, Judge is 1-15 with 12 strikeouts. He has walked four times and has two RBIs, which came on a double in Game 4. It is difficult to criticize him on his lack of ability in four games, but these have been the four most important games of the season besides the AL Wild Card game where Judge had a home run.

Yes, I believe Judge will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Pitchers will have to have specific game plans just for him. They will need to know how to pitch to Aaron Judge as they did David Ortiz, or Alex Rodriguez. Right now though, the Indians are in a game-plan for Judge and it is working perfectly. Whether it is their game plan, or Judge as a rookie just can’t handle the spotlight, tonight is his chance to put his foot down and make a difference for his team.

Rumors have swirled of Head Coach Joe Girardi being in the hot seat pending the outcome of this season. A loss tonight could put him out of a job. Girardi first took over coaching the Yankees in 2008. In his tenure with them, they have a 910-710 record. Their most notable season was 2009 when they went 103-59 and won the World Series. In the 10 seasons at NY, they Yankees have won over 90 games five times. They never had a losing record, but have only ever won one pennant title, which was the same year they won the World Series.

People can argue that he’s won a World Series which is better than most of the MLB, but the question that destroys sports managers is, “what have you done for me lately?” which in Girardi’s case is nothing. Including this current series with the Indians, since 2013 Girardi has three postseason wins and three losses under his belt. There is not a lot Girardi has done for the Yankees lately besides this current series. If they lose tonight, it could be his final game as the Yankees coach.

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My prediction tonight is that the New York Yankees lose because of their bullpen and lack of run production. I believe Corey Kluber turns it around from Game 2 and shuts them down. Just as Chris Sale did bouncing back from Game 1 when he came in from the bullpen in Game 4. Kluber goes five innings and Sabathia goes through 4 1/3. Sabathia struggles with location and gives up a couple of runs on a handful of hits and a walk. They pull him and the Yankees bullpen will be their demise. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a starting pitcher come out of the bullpen as the Red Sox and Astros did with Sale and Verlander. This is a must win game, so expect to see anything. Indians win at home 7-4.


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