The Indians face a must-win game at home tonight against the Yankees. The winner of game five moves on to face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series beginning Friday.
Few people thought it would come down to a fifth game when the Indians had been rolling for so long. Before the two games in New York, the Indians had not lost two games in a row since the middle of August.
“They went six weeks, basically playing every day, without losing two in a row,” said WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto. “They kept winning.”
A loss tonight could be especially devastating for the Indians, who have been the favored AL team to go to the World Series.
“A year ago, they were kind of ‘The Little Team That Could,’” Pluto said. “Guys were hurt and it was a surprise whenever they won a series.”
Manager Terry Francona is in his fifth season with the Indians.
“I think this is the most pressure any of his teams have faced since he came to Cleveland,” Pluto said. “He’s never had a team this good with these high expectations.”
Corey Kluber and C. C. Sabathia will meet again in a reprise of their Game 2 face-off. Last Friday, Kluber had the worst start of his major league career. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Sabathia is playing with arthritic knees and a temperamental elbow.
“He’s not dominating, but he’s pretty good,” Pluto said. “(Sabathia) is the veteran guy and he’s got a lot of heart, but clearly nobody would pick him over Kluber.”
Home field advantage
The Indians will have the home field advantage at Progressive Field tonight. The game could go either way, but from Francona’s point of view, another face-off between Kluber — who will likely win another Cy Young award — and an aging Sabathia could have been part of the plan all along.
According to Pluto, Indians fans should hope for some early runs while Sabathia’s on the mound to “get that home mojo back.”
The Indians play the Yankees in Cleveland tonight at 8 p.m.