CLEVELAND -- Game 2 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan featured the first big league meeting between Aaron Judge and Corey Kluber, both of whom very well may be sitting together on a dais in a New York ballroom this offseason, accepting the AL Most Valuable Player Award and the AL Cy Young Award.
Jose Altuve of the Astros and Chris Sale of the Red Sox would like to do something to spoil that party, but the power vs. power showdown between Judge and Kluber promised to be something to behold. Judge went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Thursday's ALDS opener and was looking forward to the challenge.
"You'd rather get at-bats against him, because the more you see a guy in the box, the more familiar you get with what his fastball is doing or his slider or curveball and stuff like that," Judge said. "I'm going to watch some video and just prepare and get ready."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that there was no specific reason that Judge was out of the lineup for Kluber's two starts against New York this season, except that the starts fell on days when Judge needed rest.
"Sometimes it can work to the hitter's advantage, too," Girardi said. "Kluber hasn't seen him. Aaron will watch a lot of film. He'll talk to the guys on what he likes to do. But it worked out that that was one of the points I gave him two days off in there when he was struggling. Kluber has been tough on all of us. I don't know if Aaron has an advantage or a disadvantage that he hasn't seen him."
Get the hook
The Indians may have tipped their plans on Judge and Gary Sanchez in Game 1. Of the 35 pitches the "Baby Bombers" duo saw, 21 were curveballs (60 percent). They were 0-for-8 with five strikeouts (all on curveballs). Including Thursday, Judge has hit just .104 (7-for-67) vs. right-handed breaking balls since the All-Star break.
"I think he's handled everything extremely well and I think he'll shake it off," Girardi said of Judge.
The seeds for the Yankees' charge into the ALDS were sown on the sun-splashed fields of their Spring Training complex in Tampa, Fla., said outfielder Aaron Hicks, who sensed that this year's team had terrific makeup almost from Day 1.
"We went out and we were playing hard during Spring Training, and we were winning games. It just seemed like we clicked as a unit," said Hicks. "And then as soon as the season started, we just started to play well. Our team chemistry was great, and that's where it all starts."
The Yankees concluded their exhibition schedule with a 24-9-1 record against big league competition, the best mark in the Majors. New York won 91 games in the regular season, its most victories since 2012.
"I like the guys in the room, and I like their fight," Girardi said. "Obviously, we're going to have to play our best. We know that. But that's the way the playoffs should be."
Break in case of emergency Luis Severino is in line to start a potential ALDS Game 4 on Monday at Yankee Stadium, and Girardi said that he would only use the right-hander on Friday if the Yankees got into an extra-inning situation. Otherwise, Girardi's choice to soak up relief behind CC Sabathia could be Chad Green, who has recovered from his two-inning outing in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
"I'd hate to ask guys to do something they haven't done this year," Girardi said. "I know [Severino] did it a little bit last year, but the guys that have been doing it and have been successful are the guys you're going to bring in."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.