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Yankees vs. Indians: How to attack Carlos Carrasco

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The Yankees have to crack Cleveland’s right-hander to stay alive in the ALDS.

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Yankees find themselves in the precarious position of being down two games to none in the ALDS. Mounting a comeback isn’t impossible — the Blue Jays pulled it off just two years ago — but the margin for error now sits at zero. The Bombers need to play flawless baseball in order to extend their season. Ryan examined the importance of Masahiro Tanaka’s start yesterday. What about the opposing pitching though?

The Bombers have had mixed results against Cleveland’s pitching. Trevor Bauer did his best Bert Blyleven impression in Game One, frustrating batters with a steady diet of bendy curveballs. Corey Kluber, on the other hand, struggled so mightily he didn’t escape the third inning. The Indians turn to Carlos Carrasco for the matchup in Game Three, and the offense has to capitalize. Because the 2017 postseason has been bizarro world for starters, the Yankees need Carrasco to pitch more like Kluber than Bauer.

Carrasco faced the Yankees earlier this season and struggled during that outing. He allowed five runs on six hits over 5.2 innings. The right-hander struck out just two batters. That’s a good start! It’s promising to learn the team had success against him in the past. Another clunker like that would be appreciated, but appears unlikely. The 30-year-old is coming off his strongest season to date, logging 200 innings of 3.29 ERA ball. He had stellar peripherals, too.

In terms of his arsenal, Carrasco is a true five-pitch starter. He works with two distinct fastballs, a hard fourseamer and a bowling ball sinker. For his offspeed pitches, Carrasco primary utilizes a wipeout slider. He’ll also go to a changeup and curveball during his starts. The right-hander has a deep arsenal, using all of his pitches regularly.

Unlike Tanaka, however, it isn’t completely accurate to describe Carrasco as a kitchen sink type of pitcher. He has a straightforward game plan. He likes to set batters up with the fourseam fastball before getting them to whiff on the slider. This holds especially true when it comes to right-handed batters, where he follows through on the plan nearly every time he gets ahead in the count.

When it comes to the Yankees, they want to avoid those slider counts as much as possible. Carrasco’s slider is among best in baseball. It’s truly an elite pitch. Batters hit just .154/.236/.082 against it this year. For right-handers, that drops to .145/.221/.076. Considering the Yankees’ lineup is righty heavy, the club has to lay off it. If they take hacks at his slider, it’s going to be a long night.

As for location, Carrasco lives in the lower half of the zone. That’s where he thrives. This makes sense considering he works with a slider and sinker. The Yankees must be prepared to look for offerings down in the zone. If they don’t, a number of called strikes could ring up quickly.

Credit: Baseball Savant

That said, if Carrasco misses his spots, he becomes hittable. That’s particularly the case when it comes to his fastball. If he leaves it up and in to right-handers, as he’s done in the past, the Yankees can do a lot of damage. The Bombers should look for pitches down, but if one sails up, they must adjust and take advantage.

Like the other members of the Indians’ rotation, Carrasco is a tough pitcher. That said, the Yankees can make it work. They just need to lay off the slider and look for pitches down in the zone. If they can prevent Carrasco from jumping ahead in the count, they have a chance to be successful. If he finds himself in a position to rely on that slider, though, the season might come to an end sooner than we would like.