CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Some things are easier said than done. Adjusting to Masahiro Tanaka’s split-finger is certainly one of those things.
The Yankee right-hander had his way with the Indians lineup on Sunday with a lethal mix of mid-90s fastball, the diving pitch that disguised itself as such and a slider that combined the two.
The Cleveland lineup has made its mark with its patience under Terry Francona as one of the most selective offenses in baseball.
The team that swings 2nd-least at balls out of the zone and 4th-least overall worked 17 3-ball counts in Game 1. That mark plummeted as the Indians fell behind in Game 2, with aggression precipitating just 6 3-ball counts.
The mindset carried over against Tanaka, who pitched mostly out of the zone as the Indians continued to hack, seeing just 6 3-ball counts again. Carlos Santana accounted for half, while Michael Brantley turned in two more.
Yankees Game 4 starter Luis Severino is no Sonny Gray. With a top-50 walk rate at 6.5%, the big righty figures in between Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer on the spectrum. The Indians bats will need to return to their patient ways, but will not be able to seek out walks.
Severino’s biggest issue in his 1/3 of an inning outing in the Wild Card Game was his noted lack of composure.
“I learned that it doesn’t help, you know, a lot of adrenaline, trying to do too much,” Severino said Sunday. “So tomorrow just try to calm myself down and try to breathe and think before every pitch.”
In his first even postseason outing at any level, Severino walked one in his small sample, but his command issues found him leaving balls too far in the zone as opposed to being wild.
The Minnesota Twins jumped on Severino’s fastball, which the fireballer will again look to set up early. Generally, Severino works away with the fastball to lefties to set up his changeup low, or slider low-and-in. Right-handers get peppered with the fastball all over the zone.
With only a three-pitch arsenal, the Indians will likely not have as much trouble with swinging strikes. There will be a fine line between finding their pitch and forcing Severino to throw his.
The Indians are a fastball hitting team, and will have opportunities to jump on the high-90s fastball if they can catch it. If Severino is able to get to his off-speed pitches, they may have more trouble. At 9.6, Severino has the 6th-highest changeup value in all of baseball, though about half of Carrasco’s mark. At 16.8, his slider is equally as dangerous, 6th-best.