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Indians @ Yankees, 2017 AL Division Series Game 3: Carlos Carrasco vs. Masahiro Tanaka

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After suffering two crushing defeats at the hands of the defending AL champs, the Yankees send Masahiro Tanaka to the hill to stop the bleeding and help them get back into this series.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees were shutout by Trevor Bauer and the Tribe bullpen in Game One, but they appeared to be cruising to a series-tying win on Friday night. The Yankees' offense got off the snide immediately, hammering likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber for six earned runs and knocking him out in the third inning. CC Sabathia settled down after a rocky beginning exacerbated by poor defense, and he appeared in control with an 8-3 lead in the sixth. Then the wheels came off.

The bullpen was unable to build on the postseason success that began with 8 2/3 innings of one-run relief in the Wild Card Game and had continued with a solid performance after Sonny Gray's abbreviated start in the losing effort of Thursday's ALDS opener. Wild Card Game fireman Chad Green coughed up a grand slam, David Robertson was credited with his second blown save in as many appearances after surrendering the game-tying home run, and Dellin Betances took the loss in his third inning of work. It was a stinging setback to New York's ALCS hopes.

As questions swirl surrounding the vaunted bullpen's epic collapse, Joe Girardi's replay decision, and the team's offensive woes in the final eight innings, all eyes are on Masahiro Tanaka to step into the role of stopper and pick up this beleagured club. It also falls on veteran leaders like CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner to help this youth-laden team turn the page and focus on what needs to be done to win Game Three and get back into this series.

Tanaka is 9-5 with a 3.22 ERA and 1.01 WHIP pitching at Yankee Stadium this year. He has limited opponents to a .690 OPS when pitching on six or more days of rest, compared to .795 otherwise. Tanaka will be making his second career postseason start for the Yankees, following the 2015 Wild Card Game. He has yet to face Cleveland this season.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco gets the nod for the Indians. He was 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.10 WHIP during the regular season. Carrasco lost his lone start against the Yankees this year, giving up five runs on six hits over five plus innings on August 6th in Cleveland.

The last time the Yankees were down 0-2 in a best-of-five playoff series was 2007 versus CC Sabathia and the Cleveland Indians. They went on to lose in four, while Joe Torre's handling of the midge situation prompted calls for his firing from the media. They ultimately claimed their scalp, as Torre left for the Dodgers after contract negotiations broke down and Joe Girardi was brought in to replace him.

Torre was also at the helm the previous time the Yankees fell behind 0-2 in a best-of-five postseason series. New York dropped the first two games of the 2001 ALDS at home, then thundered back to beat the Athletics twice in Oakland before winning the decisive Game Five at Yankee Stadium.

What's that you say, the current team isn't the 2001 Yankees? That's right, they're not. The 2001 Yankees didn't have the rookie home run champ, the man who set the Yankee record for homers by a catcher, and the one who broke the mark for round-trippers by a shortstop — all accomplished in the same season. This team has talent.

What about the added distractions of the media calling for the manager's firing, the stories about how he doesnt trust his players, and other tripe that could potentially divide the clubhouse and distract the team? None of that is new.

Rookie manager Yogi Berra was trashed for not prevailing over the Cardinals in the thrilling 1964 World Series. His predecessor, Ralph Houk, was thrown under the bus for winning only one of three World Series during his brief tenure. Joe McCarthy (seven World Series titles), Casey Stengel (nine World Series titles), and Billy Martin were similarly reviled by the press. Stories about hatred between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris abounded, even though they were close friends. Ditto regarding Thurman Munson and Reggie Jackson. Ruth and Gehrig did have a cool relationship, but it didn't stop them from winning together.

One thing hasn't changed: the media's cynical belief that they can run the team better than the actual manager. Another thing that hasn't changed: Games are won by the players on the field.

The 2017 Yankees are a fun bunch to watch and they have accomplished a lot this season. They appear to be a tight knit group of guys who genuinely enjoy playing together. I believe they have the ability to overcome these distractions. They also have the talent to beat any team three games in-a-row, including the Cleveland Indians. But will they do it? Stay tuned.

Today's Lineups

Francisco Lindor - SS Brett Gardner - LF
Jason Kipnis - CF Aaron Judge - RF
Jose Ramirez - 2B Gary Sanchez - C
Jay Bruce - RF Didi Gregorius - SS
Carlos Santana - 1B Starlin Castro - 2B
Austin Jackson - LF Greg Bird - 1B
Michael Brantley - DH Todd Frazier - 3B
Roberto Perez - C Jacoby Ellsbury - DH
Giovanny Urshela - 3B Aaron Hicks - CF
Carlos Carrasco - RHP Masahiro Tanaka - RHP