Game 151: Beat the Twins, again

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

You know, I incorrectly labeled yesterday’s game thread Game 149 instead of Game 150, and either no one noticed or no one bothered to tell me so I could correct it. Not sure what’s worse, to be honest.

Anyway, the Yankees and Twins are back at this evening, with the second game of their three-game series. The Yankees won the opener last night, giving them a five-game lead over Minnesota for the top wildcard spot. The race isn’t over, but a five-game lead with 12 games to play? I like the Yankees’ chances. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Greg Bird
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s raining sideways in New York. Lots of rain and lots of wind. The rain is supposed to slow down a bit before first pitch, though it’s not supposed to stop completely for another hour or two. We might be starting in a delay. Yuck. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game.

Rotation Update: Luis Severino, not Masahiro Tanaka, will start tomorrow’s series finale. This gives the Yankees the option of starting Severino three times before the end of the regular season, which could come in handy if they’re in position to win the division. Make sense.

Update (6:50pm ET): The game will indeed start in a rain delay. No word on a start time yet.

Update (7:36pm ET): The field is being de-tarped and the Yankees say the game will start at 8:10pm ET.

Chase Headley has been a difference-maker for the Yankees in the second half

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

These last 18 months have been a pretty hectic ride for third baseman turned first baseman Chase Headley. Headley, as I’m sure you remember, got off to that dreadful start last season before kicking it into gear in May. This year he started great in April, slumped horribly in May, and has been very good since.

Here, to really drive home the point, is Headley’s production since the start of last season:

chase-headley-2016-17-wrc

The peaks are high and the valleys are very deep. I mean, Headley hit .150/.268/.150 (22 wRC+) last April and .165/.211/.235 (14 wRC+) this May. Brutal. Legitimately one of the worst hitters in baseball (if not the worst) both months. Fans seem to have a very love-hate relationship with Headley based on his production. Well, maybe it’s more like tolerate-hate than love-hate. Whatever.

Anyway, since breaking out of that ugly May slump a few weeks back, Headley has been one of the most productive and most consistent Yankees at the plate. He’s hitting .307/.383/.454 (123 wRC+) since June 1st, a span of 364 plate appearances. Does he hit for power? Goodness no. Headley has nine homers in those 364 plate appearances despite the ball being juiced and his home ballpark being Yankee Stadium.

The lack of power is an obvious flaw in Headley’s game. He has hit for average and done an excellent job getting on base since June 1st, and that is pretty darn important. You can live with a lack of power when a guy is hitting over .300 and getting on base a ton. Also, within that overall improvement has been a considerable uptick in production against left-handed pitchers. To wit:

  • First half vs. LHP: .195/.222/.287 (29 wRC+) with 3.3% walks and 28.9% strikeouts
  • Second half vs. LHP: .362/.406/.621 (169 wRC+) with 7.8% walks and 10.9% strikeouts

Two totally different players. Of course Headley is not really as good against lefties as he has been the last few weeks, nor is he really as bad against lefties as he was the first half of the season. The truth is in the middle somewhere. Consistency would be nice, but you know what? Headley’s been great against southpaws for weeks now and it’s helped the Yankees win a lot of games. Better late than never.

Here’s the thing that really stands out about Headley’s second half performance: he’s done all this while moving to first base almost seamlessly. And maybe the move to first base and offensive uptick are connected. Headley could feel more comfortable at first base and it’s helping at the plate? I suppose so, except the hot streak started in early June and Headley didn’t shift to first until the Todd Frazier trade in mid-July.

Either way, Headley shifted to first base and took to the position very well. He had some experience there (58 total innings prior to 2017), so it wasn’t completely new to him, but he’d never played the position full-time. Headley’s inexperience still rears its ugly head at times — he’ll often range too far to his right for a ground ball when he should let the second baseman field it — but, generally speaking, he’s fared well over there. He’s been, by far, the team’s best first baseman this year. (That is both a compliment to Headley and an indictment of the other first basemen.)

The Yankees have dealt with a number of injuries (Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks) and underperformers (Aaron Judge, Castro and Holliday when healthy) in the second half, yet they’ve avoided a collapse in the standings — at 38-26, the Yankees have the AL’s second best record since the All-Star break, behind only the Indians (46-17) — thanks in part to Headley. He’s been an impact hitter for more than three months now, and he’s helped shore up a major weakness with the transition to first base. Getting this kind of performance from Headley is one of the reasons the Yankees are set to return to the postseason.

Todd Frazier wants to re-sign with the Yankees and he’s open to changing positions to make it happen

Ozakar's side (Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees won for the 12th time in their last 16 games last night — they blew a four-run lead and a five-run lead in two of the losses, which is annoying — and did so thanks in part to Todd Frazier, who drove in the game-inning run with a sixth inning sac fly. Not the sexiest play, but it helped win the game.

In his nine weeks as a Yankee, Frazier is hitting .226/.371/.439 (118 wRC+) with  ten home runs in 55 games, and that is pretty much exactly who he is as a hitter. He hits for a low average, but he gets on base a bunch and will sock dingers. His OBP is actually inflated a bit by hit-by-pitches. Frazier has been hit by (a team leading!) ten pitches with the Yankees already. He was hit by four with the White Sox this year and eleven total from 2015-16. Huh.

So far Frazier has done pretty much exactly what the Yankees hoped he’d do after the trade. He’s been an offensive upgrade over the hodgepodge of first basemen and a defensive upgrade as well. And he seems to have fit in well in the clubhouse, which is no surprise given his reputation. Frazier seems to genuinely love playing in New York, so much so that he’s indicated a willingness to change positions to stay in pinstripes.

“It’s a pleasure coming in here everyday,”said Frazier to Brendan Kuty recently. “I would love to have this challenge and I would love to play for this city for the rest of my life. I think it would be awesome … I could still play other positions. I know I can. I did it for the first three years with the Reds. I did rather well out there. I’m not afraid to change positions.”

Frazier did play several positions earlier in his career. He was drafted as a shortstop and eventually moved to second in the minors, then third. He played a handful of games in left field for the Reds back in the day and plenty more in the minors. Can he play those positions now, at age 31 (32 in February), when he’s been a full-time third baseman for the last five years? Eh, maybe. I don’t think it’s a given though.

Give the Yankees a truth serum, and I’m sure they’d tell you they want Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres (and Miguel Andujar!) to grab full-time roster spots at some point next season. Maybe not on Opening Day, but at some point in 2018. That’s the next phase of the youth movement. Frazier and Matt Holliday are both impending free agents, so the Yankees have two lineup spots opening up. Signing at least one stopgap veteran seems like a given.

The x-factor here is first base. I like Greg Bird. Seems like a good dude. But he’s some major problems staying on the field the last two seasons. The fact of the matter is Bird has not been a productive MLB player in two years now, since his 2015 debut, and I’m not sure there’s anything he could realistically do the rest of this season to alleviate any concerns going into next year. He’s going to be a question mark. Again.

A stopgap veteran who can play multiple positions, provide some first base insurance, and be gently pushed aside when the kids are ready strikes me as an offseason priority. Frazier could be that guy, depending how the Yankees feel about his ability to play first base and left field. And what will it cost to sign him? That’s the big question. I suspect some team is going to offer a multi-year deal to play third base full-time, and I don’t see the Yankees matching that.

For now, Frazier has brought stability to the lineup and defense, and he’s come up with some big hits (and sac flies) along the way too. We’ve seen other rental players parlay strong late season performances into new contracts (coughIchirocough), so it’s not crazy to suggest Frazier could do the same. His potential contract and the youth movement do complicate things slightly.

Yankees have little choice but to demote Dellin Betances and hope he figures things out in lower leverage spots

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

In what has been an ongoing theme all season, the Yankees have a problem in their bullpen. They’ve never had everyone clicking at once. Not even for a game or two, it seems. There’s always been that one guy who is out of sorts. It was Tyler Clippard for a while, then Adam Warren, then Dellin Betances, then Aroldis Chapman. On and on. All season long there’s been someone struggling.

The problem right now is, again, Betances, who faced four batters last night and recorded one out, on a gift bunt. He hit a batter and walked the other two. Overall, Betances now has a 17.3% walk rate this season — that’s 43 walks to 249 batters faced in 56.2 innings — and he’s also hit ten batters. Ten! He hit eight batters total from 2014-16. Only nine pitchers have hit more batters than Betances this season and they’re all starters.

“(Sunday) he located extremely well and I thought it was a game that got him back on track. Today it kinda reared its ugly head again. We’ll keep trying to figure it out,” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game and Dellin’s latest rough outing. “I haven’t really made any decisions (about roles). We just came off a pretty emotional game and a big win. We’ve got to get him straightened out because he’s really important to us moving forward.”

Here’s the thing to understand about Betances: it’s not command. Command is painting the corners and dotting the knees. He’s never had good command, even when he’s been great. Betances has had basic strike-throwing problems pretty much all season. We’re talking simple “throw the ball over the plate” stuff. Dellin’s stuff is good enough that he can get outs and swings and misses in the strike zone. Just getting the ball over the plate is the problem right now.

Girardi can be loyal to a fault at times, though he has demoted relievers when their performance warranted such a demotion this season. Clippard eventually stopped seeing high-leverage work. Chapman lost the closer’s job for a while. And now it’s time to move Betances out of a late-inning role until he straightens things out. I mean, last night was Game 150 of the season. The time for patience is over. It’s time to take away some responsibility and try to get him right in lower leverage spots.

The Yankees are fortunate right now to have a) a fairly sizeable lead in the wildcard race, and b) a pretty deep bullpen. Chapman seems to be back on track, meaning David Robertson can set up and Chad Green can still do his multi-inning fireman thing. Tommy Kahnle has been better of late too, so there’s your fourth option. Imagine being able to demote your four-time All-Star setup man and still have those guys to lean on? Pretty cool.

Can the Yankees get Betances on track? I mean, maybe. It could click tomorrow. It’s difficult to predict things with Dellin, who has a long history of losing the strike zone and finding it again. Until he finds it though — and he might not find it, that’s the problem — Girardi and the Yankees should not, you know, use him in one-run games against the team chasing you in the standings like last night. Let someone else handle those big spots for the time being.

There are 12 games and 13 days remaining the regular season. That’s all. There’s not much time for Dellin to hopefully figure things out, but the Yankees have to hope he does, because they’re a better team when he’s dominating. With any luck, they’ll clinch a postseason spot soon, giving them the luxury of using Betances in any situation without concern for the standings. A few meaningless game to close out the regular season would be nice.

Until that happens though, Betances’ control problems are too great to ignore, and he shouldn’t see high-leverage work at all. Chapman was demoted from his familiar closer’s role a few weeks ago because it was the best thing for the team, and now it’s time to demote Betances from his familiar eighth inning role because it’s the best thing for the team. The best thing for the team and the best thing for Dellin too.

Yankees 2, Twins 1: The Jaime & Aroldis Show

Who said the Yankees can’t win close games? The Yankees picked up a not at all stressful (nope, not at all) 2-1 win in the series opener against the Twins on Monday night. This is a pretty important series given the postseason races, I hear. The Yankees are 12-4 in their last 16 games and have opened up a five-game lead over Minnesota for the top wildcard spot. They’re 6.5 games up on the Angels for a wildcard spot in general. The magic number to clinch a postseason spot is seven and the magic number to clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card Game is eight.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jaime’s Revenge Tour
Thanks to a perfect storm of pissed-off-edness, Jaime Garcia threw what is far and away his best start as a Yankee on Monday night. He was mad at the Twins for trading him after one start and mad at Joe Girardi for the quick hook last time out. The result was a season high nine strikeouts in 5.2 innings, including five strikeouts among the first six batters he faced. Angry Jaime is a heck of a pitcher.

I thought Garcia had the best slider and the best changeup he’s had in any of his seven starts as a Yankee, and he had them both in the same start. He threw 20 sliders and got seven swings and misses. He threw 15 changeups and got five swings and misses. That’ll work. Garcia allowed his run on back-to-back singles — Aaron Judge bobbled the ball on the second single, allowing the runner to go to third — and a ground ball to third base. It was unearned thanks to Judge’s error.

The final line for Jaime: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. Imagine if the Yankees had traded Garcia to the Twins and he pitched like that against them in the postseason race. The internet wouldn’t survive the hot takes. I was a bit surprised Girardi sent Garcia back out for the sixth considering the lineup was about to turn over, but he got two quick outs before handsome Joe Mauer ended his night with a handsome single to right.

In his last three starts now Garcia has allowed four runs (two earned) in 15.1 innings, which is pretty darn good. He has a 3.89 ERA (4.24 FIP) in seven starts and 41.2 innings as a Yankee, and considering he is no higher than fifth on the rotation depth chart (probably sixth), that is pretty rad. The Yankees needed another starter with Jordan Montgomery hitting a wall and Luis Severino‘s innings piling up. Jaime’s stepped in and done a solid job overall.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sometimes Two Runs Is Enough
This felt very much like a “they’re going to regret leaving those runners on base” game. The Yankees stranded a runner at third base in the second, third, and fifth innings. They left a runner on second base in the fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. So that’s a runner stranded in scoring position in every inning but the first. Oy vey. The Yankees went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Fortunately, home runs are cool, and sacrifice flies are slightly less cool but still useful. Judge opened the scoring with a first inning solo home run to right field, giving him seven homers in his last 14 games now. He has 44 (45*) homers on the season and is a) the first Yankee with 44 homers since Alex Rodriguez hit 54 during his sicko 2007 season, and b) closing in Mark McGwire’s rookie record of 49 homers. Judge has 13 games to hit five homers to tie Big Mac.

The Twins tied the game in the fifth inning, and one inning later, the Yankees took the lead for good. It wasn’t pretty and the Yankees should’ve scored a boatload more runs that inning, but at least they got one. Chase Headley and Starlin Castro started the rally with back-to-back one-out singles, then advanced on Ervin Santana’s wild pitch. That prompted the Twins to intentionally walk Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases. What a time to be alive.

Todd Frazier, who was 5-for-17 (.294) with three homers and more walks (seven) than strikeouts (five) in his last six games going into Monday night, drove in the game-tying run with your garden variety sac fly to left field. Really nothing special about it, other than the fact it drove in the winning run. Greg Bird grounded out to end the inning, so no insurance run(s) was scored, but Frazier got one run home and ultimately that’s all the Yankees needed.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Bad Dellin, Good Aroldis
Great night for every reliever not named Dellin Betances. David Robertson inherited a runner on first with two outs from Garcia and retired the next four batters on 15 pitches, including two on strikeouts. I thought Girardi was going to send Robertson back out for the eighth given his pitch count and the fact we’ve seen Joe use Robertson for extended outings (against the Mets, most notably), but nope. In came Dellin for the eighth inning.

The Twins did the Yankees an enormous favor. Betances starting that eighth inning by plunking Robbie Grossman, then the Twins gave him a free out on a bunt. First of all, playing for one run when you’re down one run on the road is kinda stupid. Second, given Dellin’s ongoing control problems this year, why wouldn’t you wait to see if he’ll walk the park before gifting him an out? Whatever. Thanks Twins. The bunt was the only out Betances recorded.

A walk, a wild pitch, and another walk later, the Twins had loaded the bases with one out. Told you they should’ve given Dellin a chance to walk them into a rally. Betances threw only six of his 17 pitches for strikes. At that point Girardi had no choice but to go to Aroldis Chapman, and Dellin was booed off the mound. Not that first time that’s happened this season. Hopefully it’s the last.

Anyway, Chapman inherited a mess and he escaped in four pitches. He completely overpowered Mauer (overpaured?) for the second out of the inning. That was huge. Even left-on-left, Mauer is not an easy out. He doesn’t strike out much, so you’re kinda hoping he hits it at someone or grounds into a double play. Instead, three pitches and three strikes (two swinging) for the strikeout. A Byron Buxton pop-up followed and that was that. Exhale.

But wait! There were still three outs to get. Chapman got those with zero stress. Two fly balls — well, one line drive and one pop up, but whatever — and a strikeout to end the game. He blew a 103.7 mph fastball by Eduardo Escobar to end the game, then stared him down. Pretty badass. The bullpen: 3.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HB. The bullpen without Betances: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Could Dellin and Chapman please be good at the same time at some point this season? Could be cool.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Two steals for Brett Gardner and two steals for Ellsbury. First time the Yankees have had multiple players with multiple steals in a game since Ellsbury and Brian Roberts (?!?) did it back in June 2014. Gardner went 3-for-4 to pace the offense. Judge, Headley, Castro, Ellsbury, and Frazier each had one hit. All singles except Judge’s dinger. The Yankees sent 35 men to the plate and 30 put the ball in play (one walk and four strikeouts).

Gary Sanchez took a brutal foul tip right to the left wrist/forearm in the seventh inning and was in obvious pain. He stayed in the game after being looked at by the trainer. Losing Gary for even a few innings would’ve been bad. I have no idea why anyone voluntarily catches. Seems terrible.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings, MLB.com has the video highlights, and FanGraphs has the postseason odds. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Weather permitting, the Yankees and Twins will get together for the second game of this three-game series Tuesday night. There is rain in the forecast through the afternoon and evening thanks to Hurricane Jose, though it looks like there will be a big enough window to play the game. We’ll see. CC Sabathia and Jose Berrios are the scheduled starting pitchers.

Game 149 150: Wild Card Game Preview?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Can’t say I expected a mid-September series to be important for both the Yankees and Twins, but here we are. The Yankees currently sit in the top wildcard spot, four games up on the Twins. The Twins have a two-game lead over the idle Angels for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees have some breathing room in the standings. The Twins are surely looking to close the gap with New York so they could possibly host the Wild Card Game.

Because of the importance of this series, I expect Joe Girardi to manage like the postseason. There’s an off-day Thursday, so don’t be surprised if he uses guys like David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman back-to-back-to-back days, even though he doesn’t like doing that. Chad Green, if he pitches tonight, might only get one day of rest and come back Wednesday rather than his usual two or three days off. We’ll see. Win one before worry about winning three. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 1B Greg Bird
    LHP Jaime Garcia

It is overcast and on the cool side in New York, and there’s a little bit of rain in the forecast. Shouldn’t be anything that interrupts the game. We’ve had the same weather for about a week now. Kinda sucks. I miss the sun. Anyway, tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and MLB Network out-of-market. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Aaron Hicks (oblique) expects to begin taking batting practice soon. The minor league season is over, so there’s nowhere to play rehab games. He’ll have the jump right from batting practice to big league games. Sucks, but that’s how it goes in September.

9/18 to 9/20 Series Preview: Minnesota Twins

Buxton. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Buxton. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited Minnesota for a three-game series in mid-July, and dropped two of three. That was the last of the interminably lengthy stretch of series losses, thankfully, and the Yankees have gone 34-22 since. Some series notes:

  • The trade for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier was made in the midst of this series, and the latter two made their Yankees debuts in the third game. Kahnle threw a scoreless eighth inning, notching two strikeouts, and Frazier went 0-for-1 with a strikeout as a pinch hitter.
  • Caleb Smith made his big league debut in the first game, relieving Bryan Mitchell in the 6th. He took the loss after allowing two runs in the bottom of the 8th.
  • This was the first series that the Yankees lost in Target Field … it was their 8th season visiting the stadium.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more information.

Injury Report

Miguel Sano’s injured left leg has been one of the biggest storylines in Minnesota this summer, as the slugger has been sidelined since August 19. He was hitting .267/.356/.514 (126 wRC+) with 28 home runs when he went down with a stress reaction in his shin, and he was the foundation of the team’s lineup. As of this writing, his return is still up in the air.

Joining Sano on the DL are pitchers Phil Hughes (possibly done for the season), Hector Santiago (probably done for the season), and Trevor May (definitely out for the season).

Their Story So Far

The Twins are 78-71 with a +9 run differential on the season, and they currently control the second Wild Card spot. They’re four games behind the Yankees for home field advantage in that game, so that adds an interesting layer of intrigue to this series. A white-hot August propelled the Twins into the race, as they went 20-10; six of those wins did come against the tanking White Sox, though.

Byron Buxton has been the poster boy for the team’s turnaround, as the former number one prospect has begun to make good on his promise. He has a .323/.365/.622 slash line (145 wRC+), to go along with 11 HR and 10 SB (0 CS) since the All-Star break. And, despite all of the hand-wringing about his struggles prior to this stretch, he’s still three months shy of his 24th birthday.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Paul Molitor has a fairly steady hand with his lineup, though he does juggle the order a bit to get the platoon advantage. With LHP taking the mound for the Yankees today and tomorrow, we’ll probably see something like this:

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B – .260/.346/.480, 31 HR, 15 SB
  2. Joe Mauer, 1B/DH – .306/.385/.424, 7 HR, 2 SB
  3. Jorge Polanco, SS – .251/.307/.403, 11 HR, 10 SB
  4. Eduardo Escobar, 3B – .254/.312/.448, 19 HR, 5 SB
  5. Byron Buxton, CF – .258/.320/.430, 16 HR, 26 SB
  6. Eddie Rosario, RF – .295/.333/.521, 26 HR, 9 SB
  7. Kennys Vargas, DH/1B – .251/.311/.453, 11 HR, 0 SB
  8. Jason Castro, C – .234/.327/.380, 9 HR, 0 SB
  9. Ehire Adrianza, LF – .270/.335/.383, 2 HR, 8 SB

And Tanaka will probably face something like this on Wednesday:

  1. Dozier, 2B
  2. Mauer, 1B
  3. Polanco, SS
  4. Rosario, LF
  5. Buxton, CF
  6. Max Kepler, RF – .243/.314/.420, 17 HR, 6 SB
  7. Escobar, 3B
  8. Castro, C
  9. Robbie Grossman, DH – .249/.369/.393, 9 HR, 2 SB

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Ervin Santana

This is the 13th season of what has been a fairly productive career for Santana, who is still just 34-years-old. His 133 ERA+ is the best mark of his career, as are his five complete games and three shutouts. There are signs that this is more than a bit fluky – notably his 4.53 FIP and .241 BABIP – but he has been good more often than not for quite some time now, and this is his second big year in a row.

Santana’s mid-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider account for nearly 80% of his offerings, so it would be fair to label him as a (mostly) two-pitch guy. He’ll mix in a low-90s sinker and a mid-80s change-up, but usually no more than a handful of each per game.

Last Outing (vs. SDP on 9/13) – 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Jose Berrios

The Yankees matched-up against Berrios on July 19, and the 23-year-old more than held his own, pitching to the following line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K. It’s worth noting that that was in Minnesota, though, and that he has massive home/road splits. To wit, he has a 2.45 ERA (2.78 FIP) at Target Field, and a 5.14 ERA (5.00 FIP) everywhere else.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 9/14) – 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K

Wednesday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Bartolo Colon

Father Time has seemingly caught up with Colon, whose 6.39 ERA ranks 124th among 126 pitches with 100-plus IP. The Yankees tuned him up pretty well in July, scoring 4 runs in 4 innings, en route to a 6-3 victory.

Last Outing (vs. TOR on 9/15) – 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 1 K

The Bullpen

The Twins traded All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler at the trade deadline, in the midst of their soft-sell (which also included Garcia being sent to the Yankees). It was a group that ranked among the worst in baseball at that time, and it seemed destined for failure following the Kintzler deal. Instead, it has been rock-solid for the last six or seven weeks.

Matt Belisle (2.01 second-half ERA) has taken over as the closer, and rookie Trevor Hildenberger (3.11 ERA on the season) has taken over as the set-up man. Most of the pieces are the same as the last time these teams met – those pieces have just been better.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Buxton has done his best Mike Trout impression for two-plus months now, and he is one of the most fun players to watch right now. He’s a brilliant defender in center, a fearless and efficient base-runner, and far more powerful than his frame portends. The longer this goes on, the more folk buy-in – and that’s not too shocking, given his pedigree and prospect history.