It's early on a Thursday morning. I wanted to sleep late, but I couldn't. There's a game tonight. A big game. It's Game One of the American League Division Series.
Here are my pre-game and pre-series perspectives.
* I think the Yankees will see the "real" Sonny Gray tonight. I expect a great start out of him. A great start. Gray has a reputation as a bulldog and a fighter. I think that will be readily apparent tonight.
* I do not understand the Indians decision to not start their ace, Corey Kluber, in Game 1. In my book, you throw your best pitcher as early in the series as possible. Never hold back your best player in a short series. It seems the Indians want to save Kluber for a potential Game 5 so he can pitch on regular rest. I disagree with that approach. Tonight's pitcher, Trevor Bauer, is a good pitcher, but Kluber is great. I expect the Yankees to score early and often on Bauer. Sonny Gray then just needs to battle and pitch like himself and the Yankees will jump out to a quick one game lead in the series.
* Before the season, I was down on Chase Headley, but his solid bat, all year long, has made me a believer. In my perfect line-up, Headley plays tonight, not Jacoby Ellsbury. I'd play Headley at first base and DH Greg Bird. Along with this, I have a strong feeling that good things are also going to be coming from Todd Frazier.
* An outfield of Gardner, Hicks, and Judge is terrific. I like that Judge and Hicks have strong arms. In a short series, one extra base in a game can make all the difference between a win and a loss. I'd rather not have Ellsbury's weak arm in center field. I don't think the Yankees lose much defensively with my alignment over an outfield with Ellsbury out there. Ellsbury, for me, is a pinch-hitter/pinch-runner at this point.
* Having Ellsbury as the speed off the bench would allow the Yankees to drop Tyler Wade from the playoff roster and add another pitcher. With the combination of Chad Green and David Robertson not available for Game 1, the Yankees will need to carry an extra arm. For me that would be Jordan Montgomery.
* I was originally shocked the CC Sabathia got the nod as the Game Two starter, but the idea is growing on me. I think CC, rather than Masahiro Tanaka or Luis Severino, has a better "non-explosion" factor. Tanaka and Severino have shown that the big moment might sometimes be too big. CC might know better how to battle through a tough outing without his best stuff. I think that Tanaka and Severino are better pitchers than CC, but I also think that sometimes a manager has to go with his gut and his heart. Put me on the CC train. I understand the decision - and I like it.
* That being said, if Friday's game is a rainout, I'd have to think about starting Tanaka on Saturday to allow Severino to pitch on Sunday. I think Severino will bounce back from Tuesday's disaster. I'd like to get him back on the mound as quickly as possible.
* Greg Bird might be the best .190 hitter ever. I smile when I see his batting line from the season projected on the TV screen. That's a mirage. I think we are finally seeing the real Greg Bird and I think he's going to be a monster all series.
* I am also expecting a good series out of Starlin Castro. He looked bad on Tuesday, but I think this is his time to shine.
* Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Brett Gardener are all going to have long and challenging at bats. That's going to wear on the Indian's pitchers. Cleveland has a good bullpen, but, absent of Game 1, the Yankees pen is deeper and better. I expect the long at-bats to get the Yankees into the Cleveland bullpen quicker than they hope in each game (except Game 2) and that will play to the Yankees' advantage.
* One of my favorite moments from Tuesday's game was Brett Gardner's home run. I look forward to another in this series. Gardy going yardy. You have to love it. This year, especially, Gardner has risen to be a true leader. The team feeds off his fire. That home run is one of my all-time favorite Yankees moments.
* It is great and wonderful to have playoff baseball in the Bronx. Oh how I missed this kind of excitement.
* Call me crazy, but I see the Yankees winning this thing in four games. Gray wins tonight. If they play Friday, Kluber beats the Yankees to even the series at one game. (If Friday's game is rained out, I think Tanaka pitches on Saturday and the Yankees sweep.) The Yankees will win both games in New York regardless. Hey Red Sox! Here we come!