August 07, 2014

NEW YORK -- A pair of teams adjusting to unusual late-season roles will face off Sunday afternoon when the New York Yankees host the Cleveland Indians in the finale of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

The Indians evened the series Saturday, when right-hander Corey Kluber threw eight solid innings in a 5-2 victory. Kluber's performance stopped a skid for Cleveland starters, who posted a 15.58 ERA in the previous five games -- four of which the Tribe lost.

The Indians (62-46) are two games ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. Cleveland is in first place this late in a season for the first time since 2007, the last time the franchise won a division title, but manager Terry Francona said he's not worried about the pressure wearing on his club.

"When there are outside expectations -- we haven't really had that here -- the way to combat that is the expectations in our clubhouse," Francona said. "We expect a lot of ourselves. So when you prepare and play the game right, that takes away all the anxiety from the outside.

"The guys that have been through it know how much fun it is to be in a pennant race. And the guys that haven't will learn how much fun it is."

No team is more accustomed to the fun of a pennant race than the Yankees, who reached the postseason in 18 of the previous 21 seasons. But New York began rebuilding at the trade deadline last month, when it dealt away pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller and outfielder Carlos Beltran in exchange for 11 players, mostly young prospects.

Still, just because they are looking toward the future doesn't mean the Yankees (55-55) are giving up on the present. They have scored 32 runs since losing Beltran, who led New York in all three Triple Crown categories.

"Obviously we miss him," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Beltran. "But we've actually had some pretty good run outputs in the six games since he's been gone."

The Yankees are six games behind Detroit in the race for the AL's second wild card.

"We still believe that we have a shot," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We're still playing to get in."

Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (7-4, 3.40 ERA) and Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 3.12) look to bounce back from rough starts when they take the mound Sunday afternoon.

Tanaka took the loss Tuesday, when he gave up seven runs (six earned) over 6 1/3 innings as the Yankees fell to the New York Mets 7-1. The runs allowed and earned runs allowed each tied season highs for Tanaka, who hasn't won in his last three starts.

Carrasco also took the defeat Tuesday, when he gave up a career-high eight runs in a 10-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins. He hadn't allowed more than six runs in a start since July 6, 2013.

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