CLEVELAND -- The 2017 edition of the New York Yankees is not the same veteran-laden ball club of the glory days of the 1990s, but they are back in the 2017 Major League Baseball Playoffs for a reason, and Cleveland Indians starter Corey Kluber is well aware of that fact.
Charged with getting the Indians a two-game lead in the best-of-five series after Thursday night’s 4-0 victory at Progressive Field, Kluber knows it will not be an easy task against the winner of the American League Wild Card Game and second-best team in the AL East Division during the regular season.
“They’re a very versatile lineup,” Kluber said Thursday. “They’ve got youth. They’ve got experience. They have power. They have speed. There’s a lot of different ways they can score runs. I don’t think you can necessarily just sit here and say we’re going to get them out by ‘doing this.’
“I think that it comes down to us executing pitches and executing our game plan, and if we don’t, like I said, they have a very good lineup that probably will make us pay.”
The Yankees have a pair of hard-hitting youngsters -- right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez -- in the middle of their lineup, and despite a lack of postseason experience, they figure to have a big role in any success the team will have in October.
Judge and Sanchez combined to hit 85 home runs during the regular season. Judge blasted an MLB-rookie record 52 home runs in 155 games, and Sanchez set a Yankees benchmark for catchers with 33 round-trippers.
“The year he’s had speaks for itself,” Kluber said of Judge. “Obviously, he’s a great hitter.”
On the season, Kluber struck out 265 hitters against just 36 walks with 141 hits and 51 earned runs allowed over 203.2 innings of work. Kluber posted an 18-4 record and American League-best 2.25 ERA.
The AL Pitcher of the Month for June, August and September, Kluber struck out at least seven batters in 16 of his last 19 games.
During the postseason last year, Kluber posted a 4-1 record with a 1.83 earned run average over six starts. In 34.1 innings of work, he scattered 28 hits and just seven earned runs with eight walks against 35 strikeouts. Opposing batters hit just .222 against him over the three rounds of play.
And now, Kluber will be tasked with giving the Indians a commanding two-game lead in the best-of-five series against the Yankees at Progressive Field tonight.
“To make it as simple as I can, it boiled down to us doing what we do best, more so going out there and executing our game plan as opposed to trying to adjust or pitch to the hitters,” Kluber said. “Obviously, you’re going to have a game plan for each hitter, but not worrying about them as much as going with our strengths and how our strengths can best get those guys out.
“In a way, we were almost just doing it backwards at the beginning.”