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What Should Indians Expect in Rematch with Yankees?

Today is the United States of America’s 235th birthday, and all over the country people are celebrating with barbecues, picnics, and fireworks. But for the Cleveland Indians on this Independence Day, the Yankees are the enemy.

The Tribe lost three of four in the Bronx last month, and now New York is back for more—the Indians and Yankees kick off a three-game series at Progressive Field tonight.

To get an expert’s perspective on the Indians’ holiday guests, I talked to BronxBombersReport.com‘s Craig Williams about New York’s approach to the trade deadline, the team’s clubhouse chemistry, and the Yankees’ overrepresentation in the All-Star starting lineup. Here’s what he had to say:

WAHOO BLUES: Just after the halfway point in the season, the Yankees are in first place in the AL East, but the Red Sox are just 1.5 games behind and the Rays are only four games out. How do you see the division shaking out?

CRAIG WILLIAMS: I still see the Yankees making the playoffs – barring unforeseen injuries and the like.  On paper, the Red Sox might be ever so slightly better than the Yanks, but New York still has their top prospect in the minors and the resources to address needs at the trade deadlines.  I don’t know if they’ll win the division or settle on the wild card, but I think they can land one of those two playoff spots.

WB: There’s been a lot of talk about chemistry in the New York clubhouse——Posada’s unhappiness with being demoted in the lineup, Jeter’s struggles, and A-Rod’s everpresent ego have all had people worrying. Is this overblown or is it a real problem?

CW: Posada had the lineup drama well over a month ago and has actually been hitting a lot better lately (1.007 OPS in June).  Jeter has struggled, but I have never heard of him causing any problems off of the field.  Alex Rodriguez is just the guy that everyone outside of New York loves to hate.  Any little thing that he does is twisted into a some sort of tabloid story.  Ever since he admitted to steroid use prior to the 2009 season, there haven’t been any issues with Rodriguez.  I can’t remember if the “mirror kiss” was before or after the admission, but that was such an unnecessary story anyway.

To wrap this answer up, any talks of lack of chemistry are absolutely overblown.  I catch most Yankees games on MLB.TV and watch Sports Center on most mornings.  If you don’t hear anything about chemistry problems there, they probably don’t exist.

WB: The Yankees look like likely buyers at the Trade Deadline. What kind of players would the front office be looking for? Is there anyone in particular you would want to target?

CW: The Yankees want a left-handed reliever.  Ever since a talk with A-Rod, Boone Logan has been coming around and Pedro Feliciano has begun to throw, albeit lightly, off of a mound.  The return of the latter is still very much in question and it is hard to place much trust in the former.

There are always lefty specialists swapping hands at the deadlines, but I don’t have any names in particular that I’ve put on my wish list.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they acquire a right-hander who handles lefties well.  Really, the best “acquisitions” that the Yankees make will be getting Phil Hughes (Wednesday) and Rafael Soriano (late July/early August?) back.

WB: The All-Star rosters were announced yesterday, and the AL starting lineup is nearly half Yankees players. I don’t think anyone would argue with Curtis Granderson or Alex Rodriguez, but I doubt I’m the only one who thinks Robinson Cano is unworthy of his spot, and as an Indians fan I wasn’t too thrilled to see Jeter picked over Asdrubal Cabrera. Did you vote for them? Why or why not?

CW: Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the game.  Period.  He is beyond worthy from both a fan popularity and production standpoint.  As far as Jeter, I love him, but he should not be starting the All-Star Game.  Cabrera was certainly deserving of the starting nod.  What do you expect when fans vote for the All-Stars though?  You still have Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming making runs at their conference’s starting lineups in the NBA.  Why would MLB be any different?

I didn’t vote though because I would prefer that the Yankee players spent the three days getting rest and recharging their batteries.  Not only that, but I don’t even like the All-Star Game very much – MLB turned me off with the whole “this time it counts” BS. I will emphasize this one more time though, Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in the game.

WB: Who’s taking the mound for the Yankees, and what should Indians fans know about them?

CW: A.J. Burnett – Wildcard.  You never really know what he’s going to give you until two or three innings into the game.  Even after that you have to hold your breath because he can serve up 2, 3 or 4 runs in a hurry.  He doesn’t come unraveled like he did last year, but he still has his “Bad A.J.” moments.

CC Sabathia – Indian fans know all about him.

Phil Hughes – Hughes will be making his first big league start since April 3rd.  He spent over two months on the DL with shoulder inflammation.  We are all happy to have him back, but we expect there to be some rust in his first start or two.  Whether that is enough rust to keep him from putting the Yankees in a position to win remains to be seen though.

WB: What’s your prediction for the series?

CW: I don’t do this very often, but I’m going to predict a sweep for the New York Yankees.  As I said before, Burnett is a wildcard, but Josh Tomlin does not have anything that is going to give this Yankees lineup much trouble. Carlos Carrasco dazzled in his first start against the Yankees, but they typically struggle – sometimes mightily – against pitchers they’re seeing for the first time.  I’ll be impressed if he has the same type of success this time around.  Additionally, CC Sabathia is a stud and will match Carrasco pitch by pitch in a pitcher’s duel if necessary.

Justin Masterson has been pounded by teams that can stack lefties in their lineup – the Rays are a prime example.  Two-thirds of the Yankees lineup will be left-handed when Masterson is on the hill.

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